India Blackouts Widen Amid Coal Shortage and Spiking Demand

Friday, 29 Aug 2014 06:15 PM


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Blackouts in India widened as inadequate coal supplies forced plants to shut down and a monsoon deficit in many parts of the country led to extended high temperatures and greater electricity demand.

The national peak shortage yesterday expanded to more than 6 percent from the 3.9 percent average in July, according to data from the Power Ministry and Power System Operation Corp., a unit of Power Grid Corp. of India. Coal stocks at power stations run on local coal plunged. Equipment breakdowns or maintenance also caused other plants to be under shutdown, including ones operated by Tata Power Co. and Adani Power Ltd.

Among the worst affected states is Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous, and Rajasthan. Several towns in Uttar Pradesh, which shares a border with national capital New Delhi, are blacked out for more than 10 hours a day, forcing people to use diesel-fired back-up power that’s at least three times more expensive.

“Coal supplies at some of our plants have been affected due to rains in coal-mining regions,” said Kulamani Biswal, finance director at state-run NTPC Ltd., India’s biggest power producer.

The company’s Vindhyachal plant in Madhya Pradesh has shut four units, aggregating a capacity of 1420 megawatts, according to data from the Power Ministry’s Central Electricity Authority. Three of these units are shut because of coal shortages. Two other plants of the company that supply to the capital are shut, affecting a capacity of 775 megawatts.

Six-Day Supply

The Northern Region Load Dispatch Centre, which operates the northern power grid issued an alert on its website, saying there was high demand and reduced availability in the northern region.

Power plants had a coal stock of 8.89 million metric tons as of Aug. 27, almost 65 percent lower from a year ago. The stock would last 6 days, compared with the norm of 21 days of stock advised by the Central Electricity Authority. Fifty-two power plants had less than seven days of stock, while 26 of them were running on less than four days stock.

“We have had problems due to rain the last week of July and first week of August, but our performance has picked up since,” N. Kumar, technical director at Coal India Ltd., said by phone yesterday.

More than 55,500 megawatts of generation capacity is under outage, according to CEA data, which monitors performance of plants with a total capacity of 219,308 megawatts.

Tata Power on Aug. 28 said it had shut down two units of 800 megawatts each at its 4,000-megawatt Mundra plant in coastal Gujarat state.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rajesh Kumar Singh in New Delhi at To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at Dick Schumacher

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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