India is in the middle of an energy crisis. About half of the country’s coal-fired power plants only have less than a week’s supply of fuel for electricity generation, meaning the country could be hit with severe blackouts.
India’s Central Electricity Authority (CEA) accessed by Reuters showed “that 50 of India’s 100 thermal power stations had enough coal to last less than seven days. Taken as a whole, India’s thermal power generators have six days of supplies — far short of the 15-30 days set as an operating norm by the CEA.”
India’s state-run power sector has long suffered from numerous inefficiencies and corruption, but this year’s weak monsoon season has forced the country to cut back on hydroelectric power generation. Coal-fired power has been increased to make up for the lack of hydro, which has put a huge strain on coal stocks.
“I don’t know about the possibility of a breakdown … There is a problem, I think, with many of the coal supplies,” India’s Power and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal said on Thursday.
Regional state power companies have been loathe to import more coal to generate power because of government price controls and a recent Indian Supreme Court decision calling into question the legality of more than 200 coal mining permits has put further pressure on the country.
“The current coal stock situation is indeed alarming,” Viresh Oberoi, chief executive of the online commodities trading firm mjunction, told Reuters.
The current coal crisis has also put pressure on India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has promised more access to electricity, especially for rural communities. Modi’s ability to make sure electricity stayed on 24/7 during his time a premier of Gujarat helped him win his position as prime minister in May.
India is the world’s third-largest coal producer, bringing 565 million metric tons out of the ground in so far this year. But the country’s rapidly growing power needs have made it the world’s fifth-largest importer of coal.
Access to electricity has been a major concern for Indians, about 35 percent of whom lack access to electricity. In rural parts of country, access to electricity is much more intermittent.
“India had 249 gigawatts of installed electricity generation capacity connected to the national network in early 2014, mostly coal-powered plants,” according to the Energy Information Administration. “Because of insufficient fuel supply and power generation and transmission capacity, the country suffers from a severe electricity shortage, leading to rolling blackouts.”
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