Ways to avoid imminent load shedding by Mahagenco

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 30 Mar 2018 10:40:26


By G N Karalay,

During this summer and rainy season, Maharashtra State is heading for a larger load shedding than used to be in previous years. Mahagenco, the state generating company is claiming that the reason for load shedding is the shortage of coal to its power stations.

It does not expect improvement in coal supply position for months to come and hence it has sent the proposal to Union Power Ministry for importing coal from outside India to the tune of one million metric tonnes. The company states that if not necessary immediately, this coal quantity will be used as a buffer capacity whenever there is shortage of domestic coal.

Coal India Ltd has a different take on the subject of coal supply. It says there is surplus coal at the mines and that the generating companies are not lifting required coal quantity from the mines. If the arguments of both coal supplier and generating companies are to be believed, the only gap between the claims remains that of logistic problem i.e. transportation of coal from the mines to the power stations.

Presently, India has total generating capacity of about 2,75,000 MW, of which thermal capacity is about 75 per cent.
Maharashtra has 40,000 MW generating capacity out of which thermal capacity is again about 75 per cent. Coal based generation is thus dominant among various sources of generation.

Unfortunately, though generation from renewable sources of energy is planned in a big way nationally as well as at the State level, the actual achievement is not significant.
Presently, there is almost chaos in this particularly important field both on policy as well as implementation level.

Earlier, power and coal were looked after by a single Union Ministry. Two years back, portfolio of coal has been separated from power. Obviously, there is lack of smooth coordination between two entities.
Power utilities are also plagued with problems like low plant load factor, low availability of generating units, high secondary oil consumption, high auxiliary power consumption, high heat rate etc.

Though over a period of time, there has been some improvement in these parameters, these are still far below compared with NTPC.
The efficiency in the power sector is very much linked with the type of management structure. While technocrats have primacy in NTPC, bureaucracy holds sway in State power sector. Hence, combining power and coal at the Central level and reform in the management structure in State power utilities can only bring desired results.

Reverting to the immediate problem of mitigating shortage of coal in Maharashtra power stations, proposal of importing coal from outside the country, besides being costly, involves transportation by sea and will have same logistic problem of long in-land rail/road transportation because thermal stations of Mahagenco are all located at long distance from the sea shore.

Therefore, it is prudent to push for domestic coal supply. It is to be bone in mind that coal supply position is expected to become increasingly critical as load demand will increase as temperatures rise during the summer.

Further, coal supply position will be adversely affected during ensuing rainy season when coal mines face the problem of flooding with water.

(The author is former Executive Director of NTPC, Senior Consultant at Power Finance Corporation and
has penned several books on rural development)