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Coal shortage likely to worsen, spark bigger power crisis in Uttar Pradesh

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Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh is likely to face a bigger electricity crisis as the backup coal stocks for thermal power plants have started depleting in April months before the onset of Monsoon, state energy department officials said. The coal shortage may worsen during the monsoon when the supplies fall short annually due to rain and floods that disrupt mining and transportation.

“Thermal plants face coal shortage during the [monsoon]…every year between June and September. But this time, the coal shortage started in April largely due to lesser supply from coal companies [due to] shortage of wagons for ferrying coal to plants. The situation may only get worse with the rains and floods…[and] spark more severe power crisis,” an official said, requesting anonymity.

Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd (UPPCL) chairman M Devraj said thermal plants were unable to maintain the coal stocks as per the norms. But he maintained it was not affecting power production. “…we are making all efforts to maintain the coal inventory as per the norms by bringing coal by road also to avoid delays often caused when coal is transported by rail.”

All-India Power Engineers’ Federation chairman Shailendra Dubey said the coal shortage in the state has been affecting power production. He added this has forced UPPCL to order emergency load shedding in villages and smaller towns. He cited an internal report and said the Uttar Pradesh Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd (UPRVUNL)’s thermal plants at Harduaganj, Parichha and Obra lost over 13 million units of generation on April 22 because of an inability of plants to run on full steam due to lack of availability of backup coal.

According to a Central Electricity Authority’s report available on its website, most of Uttar Pradesh’s thermal plants had coal stocks in the critical and super-critical range as of April 22. The state-owned UPRVUNL’s four thermal plants, with installed capacity of over 6,000 megawatts, are short of 21% of the normative level they are mandated to maintain.

The Anpara plant had 39% of the normative coal reserves while Harduaganj, Obra, and Parichha had merely 15%, 18%, and 5%. The normative coal stock is calculated based on the requirement at 85% plant load factor. The norm for the number of days of coal stock to be kept in the power plant depends on the distance of the power plant from the minehead.

The coal stock at a power plant is categorised as “critical” when it is for less than five days in the case of pithead plants and seven days of non-pithead plants or when the stock is less than 25% of the normative level.

In the private sector, Reliance Energy’s 1200 megawatt Rosa thermal plant has only 4% of the normative coal stock though the reason mentioned for it is not low supply. Bajaj group’s 1980 megawatt Lalitpur plant has 7% of the normative coal-stock while Lanco’s 1200 megawatt Anpara C has 25%.

NTPC’s overall coal stock was 55% of the normative level. The coal left in its Tanda and Unchahar thermal plants in the state was only 9% and 10% of the normative level.

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