The Indian power utilities struggle with dwindling coal supplies when the power demand has augmented. The government is facing a problem as it is not able to increase the number of railway rakes significantly for coal transportation to power units as it would affect the supply chain of other sectors that witness a pick-up in demand.
As of April 18, in total 81 of 150 power plants that run on domestic coal consisted of critically low coal levels. Also, many of them cited the lack of rakes as a key reason. Additionally, 11 imported coal-based power plants also had critical levels of coal.
In the past three years, power consumption was the same so the production of Coal India did not increase and did not hurt.
However in FY22, the consumption of coal increased by 8%, and production of Coal India has not grown significantly to address that. There is another problem of a severe shortage of rakes available. As much as 60 million tonne of coal lies with Coal India which cannot be transported.
An inter-ministerial sub-group currently monitors the coal situation closely since several states have been forced to undertake power cuts, this situation is likely to make the summer worse as the heat increases. The ministries of coal and power sought help from the Ministry of Railways to manufacture more rakes available to transport coal, however, the railways face the challenge of diverting more capacity towards the power sector without disrupting the supply chain for other sectors.
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