For centuries, mankind has depended on fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal to meet its energy needs. From factories to everyday transportation to the functioning of enormous data centers, non-renewables play a vital part in our energy needs as it contributes to almost 84 percent of world energy and 64 percent of electricity. However, with the offset of carbon emissions, global warming, and an uncontrollable climate change, fossil fuels are seeing the chopping block faster than expected. This is not only a result of the aforementioned changes but due to a steadily rising depletion of these resources such as coal and crude oil. A vivid example of this can be seen in India.
Coal and lignite fire thermal power plants contribute to 54% of India’s installed power grids but in face currently account for 70% of the power generated in the country. As of this week, states across India have issued warnings of possible power outages due to insufficient coal for thermal power plants to generate electricity. Many states such as Punjab, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala have already had to shut down numerous power plants due to the growing shortages.
Energy ministries have called on the Central government with dire warnings that many thermal power plants only have enough coal to last another day or two while the recommended stock amount for such plants should have coal for 15 to 30 days of electricity production. States governments have also given warnings to citizens to use electricity sparingly and that will be load shedding for certain periods. These periods have extended from half an hour to 6 hours in certain states with a shocking 14-hour outage in 3 states leading to protests from citizens. However, the cause of this current crisis in India is not only due to a depletion in the mining of coal but is largely due to an improper storage plan for each thermal unit and due to surging demand for electricity post-covid-19 lockdowns to meet growing power needs.
Over the past two decades, domestic coal mining and production have exponentially risen. Nonetheless, experts are asserting the current crises to an improper system for storage. “The current crisis is not manifested by a shortage of coal mining capacity, but instead it is caused due to improper foresight, planning and stocking of coal by power generators and energy regulator in the country,” said Sunil Dahiya, an analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. The rise of climate change resulting in heavy rainfalls and several cyclones in the country has also been blamed as factors in coal mining this year due to numerous cases of flooding resulting in an impedance in transportation and supply.
During normal times, coal is imported from foreign nations to meet the required amounts. However, due to the global energy crisis, prices have gone soaring reaching record highs, and supporting demands are becoming an unbearable financial burden leading to greater shortages. On Tuesday, the central government asked power producers to import up to 10% of their necessary coal stocks and warned states that federal companies will restrain their power supplies if the states are found selling electricity on power exchanges to cash in on the surging prices.
As the world tries to return to normalcy post-pandemic, new challenges have been on the rise with the energy crisis and climate change being on the top of a growing list.