A crisis over coal supply is brewing in India for the second consecutive year with Coal India Ltd. restricting deliveries to industrial consumers to prioritise power plants.

Bloomberg reported that the state-owned miner limited daily supplies to non-power sector users to 275,000 tons. That is about 17 per cent lower than recent average daily volumes.

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On Sunday, coal stockpiles at power plants fell to about 25.2 million tons. This is short of the coal ministry’s 45 million ton target. Coal-fired plants generate over half of all electricity in India; January 31 data pegs the figure at 51.6 per cent. 

With heatwaves already settling in across large swathes of India, demand for electricity is expected to soar.

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More worryingly, fuel stockpiles are already below target as well. 

According to an analysis of data by Reuters, recorded electricity shortages in March were highest since the coal crisis in October last year.

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In October, several northern states suffered hours-long outages when a crippling coal shortage caused the worst electricity deficit in nearly five years.

This year in March, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand reported shortfalls, and Gujarat ordered a staggered shutdown of ‘non-continuous process’ industries, Reuters reported.

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Andhra Pradesh and Goa suffered deficits several times larger in March than October, data showed.

In Maharashtra coal stocks at plants operated by state-run utilities have plunged over supply bottlenecks even as rising temperatures drive up demand. 

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Concerns have been expressed by Punjab, which has flagged the need for power supply – estimated demand is over 15,000 megawatts – during paddy season. It has also asked for an additional 20 lakh metric tonnes of coal at this time.

Delhi, the national capital of India, is seriously re-evaluating power generation via solar panels, and is hoping individual homes can pitch in.