Massive Shortage of Coal in India

India is going through a terrible crisis of coal shortage. This news might sound unbelievable, but unfortunately, it is true. The biggest issue with this shortage of coal is the potential electricity crisis. India has a total of 135 power plants that are run by coal. Moreover, they supply around 70% of the total electricity in India.

Shockingly, only three days of coal are remaining in the stock as a significant power crisis looms in India. Interestingly, India is the second most user of coal in the world, just behind its neighbor China. While China managed its crisis by closing down factories and schools, India is yet to take immediate action.

Such is the alarming situation that to avoid the last-minute embarrassment, Tata Power Delhi distribution limited, which has a vast customer base in Northwest Delhi, has asked its users through text message to use electricity miserly to save the power to some extent.

The message was sent on Saturday and read – “Due to limited coal availability in generation plants across north, power supply scenario between 2 pm to 6 pm is at a critical level. Kindly use electricity judiciously. Be a responsible citizen. Inconvenience caused is regretted – Tata Power-DDL”.

Coal Shortage In India

How did the coal shortage turn into a crisis?

This coal and power crisis is not a result of an overnight process. It was in the making for months, the results of which are out now. After the double whammy of two lock downs in 2020 and 2021, needless to say, the national economy was in tatters.

Gradually, the situation improved, and the lock down was removed. As the economy got back on track, there was a great demand for power as factories and mills started to run at total capacity at once. The same process happened across the world as well.

As demand for coal increased across the world, it increased the rate of coal reserves by almost 40%. Hence, the Indian import of coal could not cope with the rising rate and fell quickly. However, with the machines working again, the demand for coal kept increasing.

The reserved coal was used extensively as power demand surged by 17%, comparing with the demands of 2019. Hence, there was a shortage of coal which led to a power crisis despite being the fact that India has the fourth-largest coal reserves in the world.

What are the options remaining for India?

According to many experts, India cannot afford to import more coal to satisfy the power demands at home. “We have seen shortages in the past, but what’s unprecedented this time is coal is really expensive now,” said Dr. Aurodeep Nandi, who is an economist and the vice president of Nomura.

Unfortunately, if the power crisis does not improve, there are high chances that the rate of electricity per unit might increase to discourage the extravagant use of power by the users. With inflation already relatively high, an increase in the power rates could only disturb consumers’ budgets.

India’s power minister Mr. RK Singh also confirmed the impending crisis. Speaking to Indian Express, an English daily newspaper, he said – “The situation is touch and go, and the country should prepare itself for the next 5-6 months”. The daily consumption of electricity has also crossed beyond 4 billion units everyday which is adding further pressure on the scarce coal reserves.

The situation is still likely to be better in the coming months.

However, all is not lost as the situation is expected to improve in the coming months. According to some experts, the monsoon is about to end, and with winter approaching, the demand for power will fall automatically as there is a reduction in usage of Air Conditioners across homes and offices. This may help the country to reduce the gap between power demanded and supplied.

Also, the Indian Government is believed to have been working aggressively to increase the production of coal by mining the fields so that the demand may be met to some extent.

Meanwhile, a lot of experts have also called the Indian Government to reduce the dependency on thermal or coal-powered electricity plants. They have asked the Government to move towards renewable energy, which is more environmentally friendly and has virtually no risk of running out as coal does. Regarding renewable resources, these include biomass energy, hydro power, geothermal power, solar energy, and wind energy. Apart from being never ending resource, the usage of this leads to zero pollution in the atmosphere unlike the use of thermal energy sources.