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Coal and Power shortage: How is the situation in Assam?

Coal and Power shortage: How is the situation in Assam?

The centre in a bid to allay fears has assured that coal is in sufficient supply and citizens don’t need to worry.

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As the festive season kicks in and the celebratory mood takes over, India, as a whole might be staring at a crisis that is brewing in the power sector. With coal supplies hitting new lows, power generation has also taken a hard hit. Many states have issued warnings and advisories about power cuts and load-shedding. A political blame game too has erupted in Punjab over this issue.  

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The centre in a bid to allay fears has assured that coal is in sufficient supply and citizens don’t need to worry. Union Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi while speaking to news agency ANI on Tuesday reiterated that “there won't be a coal shortage”.

In the Northeastern state of Assam, the story is a bit different. The citizens of Assam got a shock when Assam Power Distribution Company Limited (APDCL) put out a notice earlier this week saying that power outages and load shedding may become inevitable. It also highlighted the fact that owing to the limited coal availability the power generation had gone down substantially and the power position was at a critical level. It later clarified on Twitter by saying sufficient power is available and that consumers should not panic.

The erstwhile Assam State Electricity Board is now divided into three companies based on functions. They are Assam Power Generation Corporation Limited (APGCL) for generation; Assam Electricity Grid Corporation Limited (AEGCL) for transmission; and Assam Power Distribution Company Limited  (APDCL) for distribution. Abinash Tanti, Assistant Manager at Lakwa Thermal Power Station in Assam’s Maibella told Business Today that Assam relies on other sources for its electricity needs in addition to coal.  

“The state-owned APGCL has natural gas-based power plants and hydroelectric plants which generate about 350-400 MW in total. The overall requirement for power exceeds the output of the APGCL, this, bringing in the need for buying power from other places. We rely on other sources to meet our energy demands and some of them are coal based. With the reduced availability of coal, we have heard of instances of power shortages. If this persists, we might face load shedding and power outages,” said Tanti. Lakwa Thermal Power Station is a part of APGCL. Tanti further added that a state receives a portion of energy from central PSUs like NTPC and NHPC which have bases here.  

Pallav Jyoti Mahanta, Deputy Manager in AEGCL said even though we might not face a power crisis, we could see a hike in our monthly electricity bills. “The price of electricity might go up if supply of power goes on decreasing and the gap between demand and supply widens. Our job is to procure power. If we can’t get it from one place, we will explore other options and buy from wherever we get”.  

Mahanta remained optimistic about the entire situation saying every organisation has a backup or a contingency plan. “The people who are at the helm of generating power and transmitting will definitely find a way out. If one source is not working, I am sure they will come up with an alternative and keep the power running,” added Mahanta, who is currently based out of Panichokua in Upper Assam’s Jorhat.

APDCL’s Sheikh Abdullah told Business Today that there was a crisis like situation, but everything is now well under control. He highlighted the fact that sufficient electricity has been procured to meet the needs and further procurement is on. Abdullah is a Sub-division Engineer in Lower Assam’s Mankachar. On being asked about the possibility of a rise in the per unit cost of electricity, he said that prices are generally fixed for a year by the Assam Electricity Regulatory Commission (AERC) and a hike at this point in time is unlikely. He also echoed Mahanta’s sentiment on contingency plans and said that are backup plans which have been devised to be executed in case of an emergency.

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