Coal-fired power plants in India are offline or struggling this month after a combination of factors has reduced their fuel supply.

According to reports, 625 MW in coal-fired plants across the country are completely offline and 30 GW of capacity is threatened due to coal shortages.

The western and northern regions have been hardest hit, with as much as 40 per cent of coal-fired power capacity offline in Maharashtra and Rajasthan states.  

Data from the nation’s Central Electricity Authority, which posts power generation figures online, showed this week that a number of plants have just one day’s reserve coal stock available, while others have no reserve stock.

The problems come after heavy monsoon rains in September combined with a series of railway accidents took train tracks offline for maintenance. Most of India’s coal-fired power plants get their fuel via rail.

At issue is the number of fuel transport cars able to get through to the plants. According to reports, 32-33 cars are needed per day to fuel the country’s coal plants, while just 15-20 have been available.

However, reports from Maharashtra – where state power distributor Mahadiscom has implemented load shedding since September – predict an improvement soon. State power firm Mahagenco said this week that the number of coal supply rail cars had been up to around 22-25 cars per day for the past 10 days.  

The firm said it now expects power production to increase by 800-1000 MW per day.

And Coal India Ltd (CIL), the national distributor, said it is upping its supply to the beleaguered power plants and has begun to offer unlimited coal to power plants within 50-60 km of its mines, provided they can transport the coal themselves. In co-operation with the coal ministry, CIL has also set up a 24/7 centre to monitor coal supply to the power sector.

Meanwhile in New Delhi, an effort to address pollution levels at the start of the Diwali festival has seen the 700 MW Badarpur coal power plant shut down and privately-owned diesel gensets banned.