“There are not going to be any (coal) deficiencies which may lead to any shortfall of (power) supply,” Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at Harvard Kennedy School on Tuesday.

The government on Wednesday claimed that coal supplies were improving, even as fuel stocks with thermal power stations were still hovering around abysmally low levels and hitting electricity supplies in many parts of the country. Coal stocks at power plants on Wednesday were about 7.3 million tonne (MT), enough to meet just 4 days’ requirement.

Coal supplies to power units on Tuesday stood at 2 million tonne (MT), which were slightly above the daily average consumption of 1.9 MT/day, Union coal minister Pralhad Joshi said.

He added that if supplies were sustained, it would help power plants to build up reliable stocks at their end. “We are increasing coal dispatches to power plants further to ensure sufficient coal stocks at power plants,” Joshi tweeted.

Around 1,42,054 mega-watt (MW) power capacity or 68% of coal-based generation capacity in the country are running with coal stocks for six days or less.

Electricity supply shortage of 82 million units (MU) was recorded on October 12 across the country, a marginal improvement from the deficiency of 86.9 MU a day ago. Highest power supply shortages were recorded in Rajasthan (17.9 MU), Punjab (15.3 MU), Gujarat (12.5 MU), Haryana (8.3 MU) and Bihar (7.8 MU).

“India’s power supply fell about 750 MU short of demand during the first 12 days of October, largely due to a coal shortage, a deficit of 1.6% that was the worst since March 2016,” Reuters reported citing data from the national grid management agency. “The October shortfall was already the biggest in absolute terms for a single month since November 2018, even with 19 days of October still left,” the agency added.

“While we are counting coal stocks in days, several states are stating imminent crisis and exchange prices are going up… (however) the situation should be manageable and there should not be any widespread (power outages),” Somesh Kumar, EY India power and utilities leader, said.

He added that “next few days could be telling but we are quite hopeful that the situation will be managed”. Analysts at India Ratings said that “the situation would normalise by end-December when coal production increases daily to around 2.5 MT”. However, high coal requirement by the power sector may leave the other sectors such as cement, aluminium and steel in lurch which would have to increase their dependence on imported coal, India Ratings pointed out.

As FE recently reported, power plants have been asked by the government to “expedite the process of importing coal for blending (with domestic coal) to meet the requirement”. In a recent meeting between Union power secretary Alok Kumar and generating companies, it was decided that power plants can use up to 10% of their fuel requirement through imported coal, which will be blended with domestic coal.

“There are not going to be any (coal) deficiencies which may lead to any shortfall of (power) supply,” Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at Harvard Kennedy School on Tuesday.

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