On Wednesday, over a fifth of the country’s power generation capacity was reported to be out of service, with reasons ranging from annual maintenance and sudden technical faults to fuel shortages.
Of the total generation capacity of 2,50,257 MW, nearly 54,000 MW was facing outages on September 3, a recurrent trend over the past month that coincides with a phase when much of the country’s northern and the western parts were grappling with debilitating power shortages.
Even as the late monsoon showers across the country’s north over the last few days have brought down the demand for electricity, the worrying factor for policymakers is that even in meeting Wednesday’s feeble peak demand of 1,23,798 MW, a shortage of 5,821 MW was reported, according to data from the National Load Despatch Centre (NLDC).
As a percentage of installed capacity, peak demand met (or the percentage of peak demand that could be met) worked out to just 47 per cent of total installed capacity on September 3, a record low of sorts.
This figure of peak demand met as a percentage of installed capacity has been consistently coming down as a bulk of the thermal generation capacity added is idling due to want of fuel.
This is evident from the fact that while the installed capacity has surged over 50 per cent over the last four years, the corresponding increase for the peak demand met is just 13 per cent.
Officials involved in the exercise said that as demand picks up in the coming months due to the visible uptick in industrial activity, the situation could only get worse as newly commissioned capacity fails to generate power at optimum load due to problems that include coal and gas shortages.
The data for outages on September 3 shows clearly that outages at Central sector units — operated by companies such as NTPC Ltd and Damodar Valley Corporation — account for a cumulative 22,000 MW, while the state and private projects add up to over 32,000 MW.
In fact, the continuing story of coal shortage that has debilitated electricity generation across the country’s thermal power plants has a clear subtext — units run by public sector companies comprehensively outnumber private plants when it comes to the list of key stations forced to shut down due to coal shortages.
Even after discounting for the fact that there are higher number of public sector and state-owned plants operating in the country as compared to those run by the private sector, the trend lends some weight to the allegation levelled by public sector firms that Coal India and its subsidiaries have been diverting coal meant for them to private players.