Reduce AC usage during peak hours: AP govt urges residents amid coal shortage

CM Jagan has urged PM Modi to address the acute power crisis to avert chaotic conditions likely to arise out of load shedding, and damage to crops due for harvest.
Dr Narla Tata Rao Thermal Power Plant in Vijayawada
Dr Narla Tata Rao Thermal Power Plant in Vijayawada
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Highlighting the power crisis in Andhra Pradesh due to the severe coal shortage in the country, energy department officials have requested people to reduce power consumption. Energy Department Secretary Srikant Nagulapalli requested people in the state to avoid using air conditioners during the peak hours of 6 am to 9 am, and 6 pm to 10 pm. Reducing AC load during peak demand hours can save up to 10 million units (MU), he said, adding that daily power consumption in the state has gone up by 20% to around 190 MU. Earlier on Friday, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address the acute energy crisis the state is facing owing to the shortage of coal stocks. He noted that the power shortage is affecting farmers in the last stage of harvesting. "More water is required in the last stage of harvesting and if it is denied, fields would dry up and farmers stand to lose," he wrote in a letter to the PM. 

To avert chaotic conditions that are likely to arise out of load shedding, the Chief Minister urged the PM to direct the coal and railway ministries to allot 20 coal rakes to the thermal power stations in the state. He also requested that banks be instructed to provide working capital loans liberally to DISCOMs (distribution companies) till the crisis is tided over. Speaking about power generation, supply and demand in the state, Srikant Nagulapalli, who is also the Chairman and Managing Director of APTransco (Transmission Corporation of Andhra Pradesh) told the media on October 9 that none of the thermal power plants in the state was producing power at 100% capacity due to the coal shortage. 

Currently, APGENCO's coal plants are operating at less than 50% of their 90 MU per day capacity because of coal shortage, Srikant said. The central generating stations (CGS) have also not been able to supply more than 75% of their 40 MU per day capacity, he added. Around 25 MU hydroelectric power, 15 MU of solar power and 5-10 MU of wind power are being tapped into, he said. He also added that owing to the state government’s power policy to encourage solar and wind power generation, no agreements were made for coal supply over the past two years, and all the thermal power plants are dependent on national coal reserves. CM Jagan said that in order to absorb energy from 8,000 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy capacity, the state has not been executing contracts with coal-based plants and consequently it depends heavily on market purchases for sourcing its shortfall energy.

Highlighting the energy crisis being faced in the state, Jagan said that power generation stations operated by APGENCO, which supply about 45% of the state's energy needs, hardly have coal stocks for one or two days and generation from these could be impacted further. While APGENCO stations need 70,000 tons of coal per day, as of September end, the state was receiving 24,000 tons per day, which has now been increased to 40,000 tons on request to the Union government, Srikant said. He also noted that additional resources are needed to maintain reserves for the summer months in 2022 as well. 

According to Jagan’s letter to PM Modi, the daily average market price of about 40 MU per day of energy that the state purchases has increased three times from a daily average of Rs 4.6 per kWh (kilowatt-hour) on September 15 to a daily average of Rs 15 per kWh on October 8 this year.  Jagan also mentioned that the rates in day-ahead and real-time power markets are soaring day by day and have reached the peak of Rs 20 per unit at most times of the day irrespective of peak or off-peak hours.

"The power is also not available in certain hours in the market due to less availability of generation in the country," he said, adding that it is quite an "alarming situation" and finances of distribution companies would deteriorate further if the situation persists. It has become increasingly difficult to meet the grid demand and the circumstances are pushing the state towards load shedding, he said and urged, "We require your urgent interventions in this hour of crisis." Unplanned power cuts, once resorted to, will lead to chaotic conditions in the society as the state witnessed in 2012, he added.

Seeking urgent measures to avert load shedding, the CM demanded the revival of stranded/non-working pit-head coal plants in India without PPAs (power purchase agreements) or coal linkage on an emergency basis. This will save the coal transport time and quantity limitations in coal transportation in non-pit head coal plants, he said. 

Several states, including  Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi and Tamil Nadu, are facing an energy crisis due to a combination of factors such as excess rainfall hitting coal movement, and imported coal-based power plants generating less than half of their capacity due to record-high rates. Another factor that has contributed to the present crisis is power plants that used imported coal to generate electricity, have either curtailed generation or completely stopped as a spurt in international energy prices has made it difficult for them to meet the commitments to states at a particular rate. While power producers and distributors have warned of blackouts as generation units are running coal as low as two days, the Coal Ministry said the country has adequate coal stocks and low inventory doesn't mean generation will stop as stock is being continuously replenished. 

Power plants across the country regulated generation after stock ran low. Against the requirement of maintaining 15 days to 30 days of stocks, over half of the country's 135 coal-fired power plants, which in total supply around 70 per cent of the nation's electricity, have fuel stocks of less than two days, as per the data from the grid operator. The Coal Ministry, however, said the stocks being reported by power plants is rolling stock, which means stocks are being replenished on a day by day basis. "There is about 40 million tonnes of coal stocks at the mines and another 7.5 million tonnes at power plants," a top ministry official told PTI. "Evacuation from mines to power plants has been an issue as excessive rains as mines get flooded. But this is now being sorted out and supplies to power plants are rising."

As India's economy picked up after a deadly second wave of COVID-19, demand for power rose sharply. Electricity consumption across India has jumped almost 17% in the last two months alone when compared to the same period in 2019. At the same time, global coal prices increased by 40% and India's imports fell to a two-year low. Imported coal price of Indonesian coal jumped from USD 60 per tonne in March to USD 160, resulting in a 43.6% reduction in power generation from imported coal which led to extra demand of 17.4 million tonnes of domestic coal during April-September.

India is the world's second-largest importer of coal despite also being home to the fourth-largest coal reserves in the world. Power plants that usually rely on imports are now heavily dependent on Indian coal, adding further pressure to already stretched domestic supplies. The Ministry of Power has issued guidelines on Friday for operationalizing optimum utilization of generating stations as per the requirements in the Electricity Grid. These guidelines will enable imported coal-based plants (having sufficient coal) to operate and ease out the burden on domestic coal, they added.

With PTI inputs 

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