India is unlikely to see a repeat of the 2021 energy crisis this festive season as coal-fired power stations across the country have comfortable levels of the fuel stock to meet electricity demand of the world's fastest expanding major economy.
Learning lessons from the October 2021 energy crisis, when power stations were put on outage alert, due to coal stocks falling to the lowest level in years, the ministries of coal and power as well as railways this year have worked out a plan to ensure adequate fuel stocks at electricity generating units, officials said.
With coal used to produce almost 70 per cent of electricity, officials are confident that the 2021 crisis will not be repeated this festive season that kicks in a week's time.
Electricity demand in India has soared with a rebound in industrial activity after easing of pandemic-related curbs. And the increased lightning needs during the festive season is likely to send the demand shooting.
According to a coal ministry official, the coal stocks at power plants are at "comfortable" level as of now. The coal position in states like Haryana, Punjab which last year faced problems of coal shortages at their plants, have comfortable levels of dry fuel at their units.
"The government is holding regular review meetings twice a week with coal companies to firm up strategies for enhancing both coal production and offtake," the official said. Moreover, the coal ministry is also coordinating with Railways for rakes for smooth supply of coal to the power sector.
Depleted coal stocks last year led to spot power rates surging and supplies of the fuel being diverted away from key customers including aluminum smelters and steel mills. Electricity demand had surged 16 per cent during the festive season last year.
Late rains, however, have added to the challenge this year.
In May this year, several states suffered prolonged blackouts as scorching heat waves boosted energy demand at a time when coal stockpiles were low. That sent the officials to the drawing board to rework a coal supply plan to avert future crises. Coal-fired power plants were ordered to use imported fuel to operate at full capacity. Stock norms were also revised.