Watch | India on the brink of a power crisis due to coal shortage

A video explainer on why India is facing a shortage in coal supply and how it is affecting the country

The world is facing an energy crunch as the supply of natural gas, coal and other energy sources fail to adequately satisfy growing demand.

Natural gas prices have risen multifold in Europe, while the price of domestic natural gas in India has risen in tandem with international prices.

Several factories in China have shut down due to power disruptions linked to the short supply of coal.

The U.K., meanwhile, has witnessed many of its fuel pumps running dry and the country’s military has been called in to prevent any violence.

What is happening in India?

Amid this global energy crisis, a power crisis is brewing in India with the country’s power plants running on critically low coal stocks.

Three out of four power plants in the country possess less than a week’s coal in stock amid rising demand.

The coal shortage has impacted power generation in many states, including Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi and Tamil Nadu.

But power shortages have so far been mostly restricted to northern states.

Chief ministers of some states have even written to the Prime Minister about the imminent power crisis faced by the States.

What has caused the coal shortage and power crisis?

Power plants are grappling with a surge in demand from industries as India’s economy is picking up after the second wave of COVID-19.

Power consumption in the last two months alone jumped by almost 17%, compared to the same period in 2019.

As there is a reluctance to raise the price that consumers pay for electricity, power plants have very little incentive to boost production.

As for coal, domestic producers are unable to meet the rise in demand despite India having the fourth largest reserves in the world.

India is the world’s second-largest importer of coal after China. But importing coal has also become hard, because international coal prices have hit record highs due to the increase in global demand. 

What is the coal ministry saying?

The Coal Ministry said coal supplies in India were set to hit a ‘record high’ in 2021-2022, it blamed extended monsoons for constraints in despatches from mines.

The Power Ministry  has asked States to utilise unallocated power of the central generating stations to meet the requirements of their own consumers.

What can be done?

The coal shortage and power crisis comes at a time when India has been trying to reduce its dependence on coal to meet climate targets.

In 2016, India committed to cut emissions by 33% by 2030 and to ensure that about 40% of its installed power capacity comes from renewable energy, targets that the government says it is on track to reach.

But the country’s 135 coal-fired power plants supply about 70% of India’s electricity.

As a long-term solution, experts advocate an investment in multiple power sources, a mix of coal and clean sources of energy.

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