Column: India’s coal and power supply more comfortable this fall

LONDON, Sept 28 (Reuters) – India’s power supply looks much more comfortable than a year ago, when coal and generation shortages led to grid instability and widespread outages.

Electricity consumption has increased significantly, but coal inventories have more than doubled from last year’s level and grid frequency remains closer to target.

Between June and August, total electricity demand satisfied increased by 22 billion kilowatt hours (6%) compared to the same period in 2021.

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The increase was provided by additional solar generation (+6 billion kWh) and thermal power plants (+16 billion kWh) burning mainly coal.

India’s installed capacity from solar parks and wind turbines had increased by 16% at the end of August 2022 compared to August 2021, which helped to increase the share of renewable energy generation.

But most of the increase in demand has been met by more intensive and reliable operation of coal-fired power plants.


Government policy has encouraged the maximization of domestic coal and has prioritized the movement of solid fuels over the rail network to ensure that generators have enough fuel to operate when called upon:

  • National coal production increased by 27 million tons (17%) between June and August compared to the same period a year earlier.
  • The number of loaded coal trains shipped from mines to power plants averaged 253 per day, down from 214 per day in 2021.
  • Coal deliveries to power generators totaled 177 million tonnes between June and August, compared to 150 million tonnes in 2021.

As a result, power generators have more than nine days of coal stocks compared to only four days at the same time last year.

Higher inventories have resulted in fewer generator outages, higher generation availability and firmer dispatchable capacity.

The increase in solar production made it possible to meet the peak load due to air conditioning and refrigeration in the middle of the afternoon (maintaining the coal stocks).

But greater availability of coal-fired generation has made it possible to cope with high loads in the evening, as the production from the solar panels fades quickly.


On the national power transmission grid, frequency remained close to the target of 50.0 cycles per second (Hertz), indicating that generation and load were balanced.

Periods of severe underfrequency (below 49.9 Hertz) were shorter and less frequent than in April 2022 and October 2021, when severe drops in frequency were a symptom of generators unable to meet demand.

In recent years, the network has typically faced its toughest tests in March-April and September-October, when the seasonal rise and fall in cooling demand is not always synchronized with the rise and fall in temperature. renewable energy production and coal stocks.

Electricity consumption as well as hydroelectric, solar and wind generation increase in the summer months and decrease in the winter.

But the shoulder seasons of spring before the monsoon and autumn after the monsoon can be difficult if warm weather arrives earlier or persists longer than normal:

  • In October 2021, a late heat wave kept air conditioning higher than usual, while renewable energy production faded and coal stocks were still low after the monsoon, causing blackouts .
  • In April 2022, very hot weather arrived much earlier than normal, as production from solar, wind and hydro sources continued to grow from their winter lows, again stretching the grid.

At present, the Indian grid currently appears to be in a healthier state as, although coal inventories are low, they are in line with pre-pandemic levels for the time of year.

Current coal inventories should be high enough to keep generators online reliably over the next month until temperatures drop and inventories are replenished this winter.

Reliable electricity supplies will support business activity and reduce the need for panicked and costly purchases of imported coal on the spot market.

Associated columns:

– India’s power shortages ease as wind and hydro generation increase (Reuters, June 27) read more

– India’s coal stocks under pressure due to rail bottlenecks (Reuters, May 12) read more

– India faces widespread blackouts this summer (Reuters, April 14) read more

– India’s coal and power shortages ease (Reuters, November 12) read more

– Plagued by coal shortages, India’s power grid struggles to meet demand (Reuters, Oct. 12) read more

John Kemp is a market analyst at Reuters. Opinions expressed are his own.

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Editing by Mark Potter

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The opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of Reuters News, which is committed to integrity, independence and non-partisanship by principles of trust.

John Kemp

Thomson Reuters

John Kemp is a senior market analyst specializing in oil and energy systems. Prior to joining Reuters in 2008, he was a trade analyst at Sempra Commodities, now part of JPMorgan, and an economic analyst at Oxford Analytica. His interests include all aspects of energy technology, history, diplomacy, derivatives markets, risk management, politics and transitions.

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