The current power crisis is mainly on account of sharp decline in electricity generation from different fuel sources and not due to non-availability of domestic coal, a top official said on Sunday.
The above statement assumes significance in the wake of reports of many states, including Maharashtra, facing power outages due to shortage of coal.
In an interview to PTI, coal secretary A K Jain attributed the low coal stocks at power plants to several factors such as heightened power demand due to the boom in the economy post COVID-19, early arrival of summer, rise in the price of gas and imported coal and sharp fall in electricity generation by coastal thermal power plants.
"It is not a coal crisis but a power demand-supply mismatch... The power demand has registered an upswing as the economy has bounced back, summers have arrived early and the price of gas and imported coal have shot up sharply," Jain explained.
He added that a slew of measures are already under way to enhance total power supply in the country.
The gas-based power generation which has fallen drastically in the country has aggravated the crisis.
"Some of the thermal power plants in India were built along the coast so that imported coal could be used, brought from nearby countries like Indonesia... But with the sharp rise in the price of imported coal they have reduced the imports," Jain said.
The coastal thermal power plants are now generating around half of their capacity because of the sharp rise in the prices of imported coal.
This has resulted in a gap between the demand and supply of electricity.
The secretary further said that States located in the South and West have been dependent on imported coal.
And when domestic coal is dispatched through wagons/ rakes to the domestic coal-based plants in these states to make up for the loss in imported coal generation, the turnaround time of rakes is more than 10 days, which creates rake availability issues for other plants.
Since last year, the railways has loaded more coal than ever, even by curtailing rake supply to other sectors to meet the enhanced demand of the power sector. There was good loading of rakes in the month of March.
Since Coal India is a government company, it is expected that the PSU will bridge the gap between the demand and supply of fuel by providing additional coal.
Last year, around 18 per cent more coal was supplied by CIL to the power sector, as there was a fuel stock of 100 million tonnes.
"And this year also we are ready to give eight per cent over this increased number," the secretary said.
Coal India has produced 25 per cent more in the first half of the current month in comparison to the same period in the last year, and accordingly the dispatches were also up by up to 25 per cent.
CIL -- the country's largest producer and supplier of coal -- accounts for over 80 per cent of domestic coal output.
Coal minister Pralhad Joshi had on Saturday said that at present 72.50 MT of coal is available at different sources of CIL, Singareni Collieries Company Ltd (SCCL) and coal washeries among others.
The minister had also said that 22.01 MT of coal is available with thermal power plants.
Stating that there is sufficient availability of coal in the country, Joshi had said that the same will last for a month and availability is getting replenished on a daily basis with record production.
As per the government's provisional data, the total coal production in FY'22 was at 777.23 MT over 716 MT in FY'21, registering a growth of 8.55 per cent.
CIL's production went up by 4.43 per cent to 622.64 MT during FY'22 from 596.24 MT in FY'21.
Total coal dispatch during FY'22 was at 818.04 MT against 690.71 MT in FY'21, registering an increase of 18.43 per cent.