Contributory factors: coal shortage, overdrawal by States, early winter and of course, Telangana agitation

The country is facing a severe shortage of electricity. Coal shortage in power plants and heavy overdrawal by some States have aggravated the crisis, especially during the festive months. In addition, the setting in of winter has led to a decline in hydro power production.

In the South, the Telangana agitation has badly hit power supplies in Andhra Pradesh and adjoining areas, leading to a fall in generation capacities of the plants, triggering massive loadshedding and power cuts.

The leading public sector power producer, NTPC, has already raised the red flag stating that coal shortage is hurting power production in a large number of its plants. The situation has been deteriorating over the past few days, especially in the northern and eastern regions, threatening the very functioning of the grid operations. The situation has become all the more alarming with the power demand surging in view of the festival season, making it difficult for the States to cater for consumers.

The capital has been faced with a bleak scenario — during the last few days private power distribution companies have resorted to loadshedding and power cuts to deal with shortage. The entire system has badly impacted the grid operations with the grid frequency dipping below 49.5 hertz for a large part of the day, below the standard level.

The States have been overdrawing power, posing a serious threat to the functioning of the entire grid. During the weekend, the frequency dipped to a low of 48.74 Hz as States in the north, mainly Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, overdrew heavily.

Officials in the Power Ministry said the situation had been aggravated by a number of factors, including the derailment of a big consignment of coal, and floods in some eastern States, affecting coal production. The existing coal shortfall due to a strike at the Singareni Collieries has already dented production at several southern and western region stations.

Adding to these is the onset of early winter in Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand which is likely to hit production of hydro power from these States, leading to deficiency in the northern grid. Officials feel this would put a lot of pressure for overdrawal of power in the northern region.

However, a silver lining is that the southern States have followed a very disciplined regime and adhered to the grid frequency norms despite rampant shortages.

Grid operators have filed a petition against Uttar Pradesh for alleged violations of grid discipline. “There has been an estimated shortfall of around 8,000 MW in the entire system due to all the above factors. The drop in hydro power generation has been around 100 million units which does not augur well for the grid system in the present scenario,” say officials.

NTPC plants affected

NTPC said coal shortage is hurting the performance of several of its plants, including Dadri and Vindhyachal, resulting in lesser electricity generation. Going by the estimates, coal shortages are impacting over 4,000 MW of NTPC's power generation capacity.

Mining and loading of coal to many power plants has also been hit by heavy rains and strikes, which have affected production at Northern Coalfields Ltd (NCL), Central Coalfields, Eastern Coalfields, Mahanadi Coalfields and Singareni Collieries Company (SCCL) mines, it said in a statement.

The company said coal supply from these mines accounted for about 70 per cent of its contracted quantity. “NTPC power stations at Dadri in the Delhi region, Singrauli and Unchahar in the north, Vindhyachal in Madhya Pradesh, Farakka and Kahalgaon in the east and Ramagundam and Simhadri in the south are affected due to coal shortage,” it added.

According to the company, the Badarpur plant is generating less as the temporary closure of the Agra Canal has caused water shortage. Before the onset of monsoon, NTPC had a coal stock of 5.3 million tonnes to meet the requirement of 13.2 days. This has depleted drastically, the statement noted.

Similarly, the Telangana stir has created a crisis of sorts in Andhra Pradesh and some adjoining areas. The gap between demand and supply has widened to 50 million units (MU) per day, with the demand touching a peak of 275 MU because of the continued dry spell in the State. During the corresponding period last year, the demand for power was only 223 MU. The industry and agriculture have been worst hit by power cuts — with the shutdown in urban areas being around four hours, six hours in district headquarters and about 10 hours in rural areas.