Dark Days Ahead! Odisha Power Plants May Trip On Coal Crunch

New Delhi/ Bhubaneswar: The good news is the country’s economy is growing. How so? The Centre says a steep rise (almost 20%) in power demand is a positive sign as it indicates that more consumers are buying appliances like fans, coolers, TVs, etc.

According to Power Ministry data, India had consumed 124 Billion Unit (BU) of power in August 2021. The figure was 106 BU before the COVID period in August 2019.

However, the bad news is a power crisis is looming in the country, including in Odisha, with thermal plants running short of coal reserves necessary to run them. In fact, 70% of electricity consumed in India is generated by power plants.

The ministry has admitted to the problem. As on October 3, the average stock of coal in power plants was for about four days, the ministry said.

It, however, blamed continuous rain in the coal-bearing areas in August and September for lower dispatches from mines.

As a result of the coal crunch, half the power plants in the country have sounded alert for outages and shortages are already emerging. The crisis can also deal a body blow to the country’s recuperating economy. The crunch may force India to import more fossil fuels at a time when global crude prices are at a seven-year high.

The situation is also quite grim in Odisha, which accounts for around 25% of coal deposits in India.

The Utkal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UCCI) has complained that over 65% of the coal produced in Odisha is being exported to power plants in other states. This is robbing local industries of critical supply of coal and the shortage may force a possible shutdown of operations, the trade body has warned.

In a press statement, the UCCI has urged Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to take up the matter with the Centre so as to raise coal supply to local industries. This will avoid setbacks to the industrial sector in Odisha, it added.

Pointing to the escalating energy crisis, Union Power Minister Raj Kumar Singh said India could face as long as a six-month battle to ensure enough fuel to run coal-fired power plants.

In order to mitigate the crisis, the power ministry has formed a Core Management Team (CMT) to monitor and manage coal stocks on a daily basis. The CMT will also follow up with Coal India and Railways to improve coal supply to the power plants.

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