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Amid Heatwave, States Continue to Face Power Outages; Opposition Blames Centre for Coal Shortage

Various states continued to grapple with power shortages on Friday amid soaring mercury pushing the demand higher while opposition parties blamed the Centre for coal shortages at thermal plants. As the heatwave continued to intensify, the country’s peak power demand met touched an all-time high of 207.11 GW on Friday while the railways cancelled 42 passenger trains to facilitate coal freight movement, with South East Central Railway (SECR) division that covers the coal-producing regions cancelling 34 trains.

Aam Adami Party and Congress leaders held the Centre responsible for the ongoing power crisis and alleged that logistical support was not being provided for coal distribution to power plants. Latest data from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) showed that coal stocks at 147 non-pit head plants monitored by it was 24 per cent of the normative level on April 27 and 28. It was 25 per cent of normative level on April 26.

Non-pithead plants are situated hundreds of kilometres away from thermal power plants and maintaining required coal stocks for those is essential for power generation. The all India peak power demand met or highest supply in a day touched 207.11 GW on Friday, an all-time high. The same was at 204.65 GW and peak deficit at 10.77 GW on Thursday.

The peak deficit figure for Friday was not immediately available. Peak deficit has been increasing this week. It was at 5.24GW on Monday, 8.22GW on Tuesday and 10.29GW on Wednesday. Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh on Friday said that 16 states are forced to have daily power cuts of up to 10 hours and power stations with 72,074 MW capacity are not operating due to the non-availability of coal even though there is no shortage of it.

He also claimed that 106 of the total 173 power plants are having less than 25 per cent of their usual reserve and states are being forced to buy power as high as Rs 12 per MW. Vallabh said the ministries of power, coal and railways should sit together and find a solution to the current crisis.

Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said the Modi government should stop running the “bulldozer of hatred” and start running power plants instead. “I am saying again – This crisis will destroy small industries, due to which unemployment will increase further. Small children cannot stand this scorching heat. The lives of patients admitted in hospitals are at stake. There will be financial loss by stopping rail, metro services,” Gandhi said in a Facebook post.

The Delhi government also flagged an “acute shortage” of coal, claiming that many power plants are left with only one day stock and warned of supply disruptions to the national capital, even as Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the situation was being handled somehow. NTPC in reply to the Delhi government’s claims of shortage of coal at its plants, said in a tweet that currently Unchahar and Dadri power stations, supplying power to the national capital, are running at full capacity and receiving “regular” coal supplies.

Jain said the main reason for “huge shortage” of coal was the lack of adequate number of rakes. The number of railway rakes has been reduced from 450 to 405 instead of being increased, he added. The minister also claimed that power plants, including Dadri and Uchahar, had only one-day coal stock that usually should be there for 21 days. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said it was the job of the Centre to provide coal to the states. “Will the directionless state BJP leadership ask the Centre why is it not able to provide coal in accordance with the demand, due to which there has been a crisis in 16 states?” he asked.

Kerala Electricity Minister K Krishnankutty said the nationwide shortage of coal was the reason for the present crisis. The All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) claimed that lack of coordination amongst ministries of coal, railways and power is responsible for coal shortage which has caused power outages.

BJP-ruled Haryana’s Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar called on Union Power Minister R K Singh and discussed measures required for the uninterrupted supply of electricity in the state.

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