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Apr 16, 2012 at 10:02am IST

Power crisis looms large: India short of electricity by 21,000 MW, will you have power this summer?

New Delhi: This summer, get ready to face the heat. India is 21,000 MW short of electricity, which means long nights without power. The reason is that 25 power stations have just about four days of coal left to fuel the power plants and a little more than 30 stations have just 7 days of stock left.

The Central Electricity Authority has warned that Delhi's Rajghat plant, Haryana's Mahatma Gandhi plant, Uttar Pradesh's Dadri plant and Maharashtra's Parli plant have coal for just two or three days. In Karnataka, the two functional thermal plants at Raichur and Bellary have coal for just three days.

Former Power Secretary Anil Razdan said, "Two days of coal stock is a very critical situation, ideally a plant should have at least 10 days of stock."

The reason for the crippling coal shortage is that Coal India, which supplies coal to 80 per cent of India's power plants itself has a shortage of 142 million tonnes and the reason for this shortage is partly a lack of transport for coal. In fact, Coal India this week is expected to sign Fuel Supply Agreements assuring at least 80 per cent coal supply to producers. But power companies warn that even this is not enough. End consumers have no option but to bear the heat.

Director General of Association of Power Producers Ashok Khurana said, "Today, approximately 28,000 Megawatt of power plant is working at below 50 per cent. And the balance between the production, dispatch and the coal available at the power stations is very delicate. So slight disruptions which take place during rains and all that disrupts the entire power schedule over there."

Even importing coal to meet the immediate shortfall is not an option since it is prohibitively expensive. Imported coal is four times costlier than domestic coal, which is Rs 1,000 per tonne.

BSES Yamuna Power CEO Ramesh Narayanan said, "In the distribution side, the entire funding by the financial institutions are done on the strength of the balance sheet. And unfortunately, all the 'Discoms' in the country are in deep trouble. They don't have a strong balance sheet."

The looming power crisis has even put the Prime Minister's Office on high alert. The PMO recently convened a hurried meeting to expedite the process of high import costs for coal, smoothen environment clearances for coal projects, and nurse the worsening financial health of power distribution companies. But all these might be too small and too late to save the nation from a complete blackout.

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