Even as India’s peak power demand met during the day reached a record 240 GW on Friday, the domestic coal-based (DCB) power plants are facing coal shortage, which has hit around 6.3 million tonnes at the end of August 2023.

“All India peak power demand met (or the highest supply of electricity) reached a record high of 239.978 GW (239,978 megawatt) as on September 1, at 12:22 pm. This is an all-time high so far. The sudden rise in power demand was met by taking several proactive measures,” Power Minister R K Singh tweeted.

From adding capacity aggressively, running coal-based plants at full throttle to massive renewables deployment, a mechanism has been put in place to meet any contingency. The Ministry is fully prepared to meet any such spike in future too. The progress of the nation cannot be compromised, he added.

However, even as consumption breached past records, the gap between coal receipt and consumption at DCB plants has surpassed 6 mt, which is the highest so far in FY24 and the current calendar year, sources said.

India faces higher requirement for electricity due to a high heat index and humidity, which led to more demand for cooling that reflected in high power demand, particularly in North, Central and South India. The average maximum temperatures during August 2023 were the highest since 1901.

Coal shortage

A senior government official said that there is a gap between receipt and consumption of domestic coal, which has been increasing.

For instance, DCB plants consumed 66.35 mt of the dry fuel during August against a receipt of 60.09 mt and blending of imported coal at 1.90 mt. The gap between consumption and receipt stood at 6.3 mt. The gap between receipt and consumption of coal during April, May, June and July 2023 stood at 4.15 mt, 1.91 mt, 3.77 mt and 2.32 mt.

The data of power consumption and coal stocks show that coal reserves have come down in the last 10 days (as of August 21).

According to the National Power Portal, the total coal reserves at DCB plants stood at 28.01 mt against a daily requirement of 2.6 mt (sufficient for 10.8 days) as on August 31. On the same day, 38 plants had critical stocks.

In comparison, pan-India coal stocks at DCB plants stood at 29.7 mt, which is sufficient for 11.4 days as on August 21. On the same day, the number of DCB plants with critical stocks stood at 28.

Coal reserves data for DCB plants show that 147 non-pithead plants with a capacity of 148.37 GW, against a daily requirement of 2.08 mt, the domestic stocks stood at 20.63 mt and imports were at 0.97 mt, as on August 31. The percentage of actual stocks vis-a-vis normative stock was 47 per cent.

Coal reserves

On August 21, coal reserves at non-pithead plants stood at 20.89 mt and imports were at 1.24 mt. The percentage of actual stocks vis-a-vis normative stock was 51 per cent.

On August 31, the data from the Grid controller of India shows that the peak demand met during the day hit 236.59 GW with a peak shortage of 7.32 GW and a generation outage of 39.18 GW with outage being the most in Western Region followed by Southern Region, Eastern Region and Northern Region.

On August 30, the peak demand met was 233.39 GW, while peak shortage and generation outage stood at 4.01 GW and 47.04 GW, respectively.

A comfortable position for reserves is around 14-15 days, an official said, adding that during rains transporting coal becomes an issue. The planning for transporting the crucial resource should have been done at least by April-May 2023.