By Dr. Gyan Pathak
“Netaji, do you know the meaning of converting UP into Gujarat? It means 24- hour electricity, no power cut for 356 days in every village and street. You can’t do it. You don’t have the guts to turn UP into Gujarat. It takes a 56-inch chest,” Narendra Modi said amidst rapturous applause and sloganeering by his supporters at Maanbela area in Gorakhpur on January 24, 2014. He had said this accepting the challenge thrown by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in an earlier election rally in Varanasi. Narendra Modi won the election and became Prime Minister of the country. Now after eight years of his rule, India has fallen into unprecedented energy crisis, and we are facing hours of electricity blackout across the country despite his claims of 56-inch chest and good governance which are obviously false.
There is no sign that India can overcome this energy crisis in near future. The chief reason is the coal crisis in the country, a sector which is regulated by the Centre, and hence is responsible for the crisis. There is little stock with coal mining companies and with the thermal power stations. Moreover, peak-power demand in the country has surged to a record high on April 28, and is expected to rise by as much as 8 per cent next month, the Union Ministry of Power has said. Additionally, a shortage of trains to transport coal is exacerbating the supply crisis of coal. The Power Secretary of India has said this week that train availability was 6 per cent lower than required. Railways is again with the Centre and hence responsible for bad performance.
Another problem is added to the electricity crisis is that the chief reservoirs in our country have too little water to meet the needs of our hydroelectric power generation units. Live storage of water in India’s major reservoirs has been dipping continuously amid early and intense heat wave as well as deficient pre-monsoon rainfall. The storage levels in 140 major reservoirs fell to 39 per cent of their cumulative capacity from 50 per cent from March17-April 21 with a 2-3 per cent dip every week. These reservoirs had live storage of only 68.739 billion cubic meter (BMC) against the total capacity of 175.957 BMC on April 21. Therefore, we cannot even hope for any relief from hydroelectric power for at least two months.
Modi government has also been boasting too much about the development of renewable resources, and has been credited for several flagship programmes. There are ambitious targets to achieve 175 GW by end of 2022, but total installed renewable energy capacity stands at about 151 GW by December 2021, which also included the large hydro generation units. Solar energy installed capacity is 49.5 GW. Obviously it is too little to supplement the electricity need.
No wonder that Electricity supply fell short of the demand by 1.88 billion units, or 1.6 per cent, during the first 27 days of April, the worst monthly shortfall in over six years according the federal grid regulator POSOCO data. The data also shows that power cuts in five states, including Rajasthan and Haryana in the north and Andhra Pradesh is in south were worst in over six years.
The power crisis has struck the country at a time when the economy has just begun reviving after two years of the pandemic. The pickup in economic activities has actually increased the electricity demand at the fastest pace in nearly four decades. The crisis has already disrupted agricultural and allied activities such as food processing. Industrial activities have also been disrupted with power cuts showing an increasing trend. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Rajasthan have officially restricted industrial activities. There is every possibility of large scale industrial disruption due to power cuts, both scheduled and unscheduled. Rajasthan has scheduled four hours of power cuts for factories.
The Centre has still been claiming that they have taken sufficient measures to increase the coal supplies to power plants, but the factual position at the thermal power stations does not substantiate this claim. Union government has asked the states to step up their imports for the next three years to build up inventories, but in the mean time thermal power plants across the country are grappling with coal shortage. The National Power Portal’s daily coal report also shows an acute shortage of coal at power plants.
How grim the situation is can be imagined even by the power supply position in the National Capital Delhi. Delhi government has even warned of a possible setback in providing uninterrupted electricity supply to important establishments including Metro trains and hospitals. The reason stated for this is shortage of coal at power stations feeding electricity to Delhi. Delhi government has even written to the Centre requesting it to ensure adequate coal availability.
In brief, the electricity supply disruption has adversely affected almost every activity including household, business, industries, banking, internet, and even emergency services as in hospitals despite Modi’s boast eight years ago referring “24- hour electricity, no power cut for 356 days in every village and street” and his 56 inch chest. No one, except a sycophant, can applaud him for such a bad performance that the present electricity crisis has revealed, which has threatened even energy security of the country. (IPA Service)