India appears to be facing a deeper coal shortage, increasing the risk of blackouts

The energy-hungry nation expects local coal supply to fall short of demand at 42.5 million tonnes in the September quarter, 15% more than forecast, due to stronger growth, strong electricity demand and lower production from some mines.

The gloomy forecast points to the extent of fuel shortages in India, at a time when annual electricity demand is growing at the fastest rate in at least 38 years and as world coal prices are trading near record highs due to supply shortages resulting from Russia. -The Ukrainian crisis.

In recent days, India has stepped up pressure on utilities to increase imports, warning of cuts to the supply of coal mined in the country if power plants do not stockpile coal through imports.

However, one of the slides in the presentation shows that most states have not awarded coal import contracts and Indian utilities will run out of coal in July if no coal is imported. .

Only one state had awarded coal import contracts by the end of April, according to an energy ministry report on import status reviewed by Reuters.

India forecasts domestic coal supply of 154.7 million tonnes, 42.5 million tonnes lower than the 197.3 million tonnes forecast for the September quarter, according to the presentation. He previously estimated a shortfall of 37 million tonnes.

The presentation took place Friday in a virtual meeting attended by the federal coal and electricity ministers, which was attended by senior federal and state energy officials, according to two government officials familiar with the matter. .

Federal coal and electricity ministers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Presentation details have not been previously reported.

Coal stocks at power stations have fallen about 13% since April, meaning coal demand for eight days, the lowest level so far this year in at least nine years. Rising demand for coal could also hamper stockpiling efforts at power plants.

India now expects demand for utility coal to be 784.6 million tonnes for the year ending March 2023, according to presentation, 3.3% higher than previously estimated.

The projected annual coal shortage is now 49.3 million tonnes, nearly triple the previous estimate of 17.7 million tonnes, according to the presentation.

India has adjusted its coal demand forecast after stronger-than-expected growth in electricity demand in April, when electricity consumption hit a record high due to soaring temperatures.

Many states on Friday asked Coal India, which is run by the federal government, to import large quantities of coal and distribute it between states, officials said.

States cited high world prices and supply difficulties to call for bulk imports, officials said, adding that the coal minister had told states their requests would be considered.

Larger imports could put further pressure on state-owned electricity distribution companies, which are already in debt and owe generators billions of dollars, as they have historically absorbed higher input costs to keep prices stable.

Coal India did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The world’s largest miners have not imported coal in recent years.

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