The age of technology has not been able to prevent India from continuing to sequester its energy needs from traditional sources. The entire process of power generation and producing electricity has remained relatively orthodox. In contrast, the world, or at least parts of it, is transforming its infrastructure to produce energy from renewable sources. The fact that the earth has limited resources is not alien to anyone. In fact, most people are privy to the fact that we are almost at the point of no return when it comes to exhausting the earth’s non-renewable sources. With the pace with which we are exploiting our non-renewable sources of energy, the entire game could be over in a matter of years. We might devoid our next generation of people of the natural resources altogether. The time to act is now.
The recent coal and power crisis in the country should be treated as an invaluable wake-up call. According to various reports, we had just three days worth of coal remaining in the stocks. India is running so low on coal and power production that if the situation gets any worse than this, the consequences might be too horrendous to even contemplate. There are various factors why the Indian people find themselves in this precarious situation.
To start with, the revival of the Indian economy played a detrimental role in creating this crisis. This, as one would imagine, is quite counter-intuitive. While everyone desperately wanted the economy to bounce back with a bang, our coal-fired power plants were not ready for it. The sudden rise in the electricity demand overburdened the coal mines. Simultaneously, the incessant rains in the month of September forced the production and transportation of the coal to take a halt. The consumption of energy, especially in the manufacturing sector, increased manifold to meet the pent-up demand. These two factors alone meant that the Indian people were witnessing an unprecedented rise in energy demand.
To add to this already worrisome predicament, the prices of importing Indonesian coal saw an almost three-fold hike from $60/ton in March 2021 to a whopping $160/ton in September-October 2021. This is extremely relevant because the increased demand prior to the pandemic was met by buying coal from outside. But this time around, the prices were exorbitantly high. Had we imported coal at this stage, the direct impact would have meant that the Indian people would’ve had to cough up an extra amount. Additionally, there were no appropriate arrangements in place before the arrival of the monsoon to accommodate for any losses in production. All these factors combined together to result in this energy crisis like never before.
Now, it doesn’t require a rocket scientist to infer that this coal and energy crisis will have an adverse impact on our businesses and economy. India is heavily dependent on coal to meet out its energy need. Over 70% of our requirement is fulfilled by our coal-powered energy production plants. This is often criticized as too much dependency on a single source which is continually depleting globally. Shifting to modern renewable sources of energy is the only sustainable plan to tackle the ever-growing need for energy in our fast-developing nation. In such dire times, the manufacturing sector could crumble without electricity. This will impact the economy directly as India is an important member in the area of manufacturing, in the global scheme of things. Our economy relies heavily on it. The increase in demand and decrease in production could send the country into chaos. Therefore, this should serve as a thumping reminder to the people and the government to fasten the plans to achieve a hefty share of our energy production from renewable sources of energy.
The impact on the common people is quite evident. Many parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Jharkhand, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh are among the worst affected. There are constant power cuts for long periods of time to compensate for low energy production. This will stretch to other parts of the country as well if things don’t resume normalcy soon. Raising concerns regarding the same, the Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal had written to PM Narendra Modi to take cognizance of the matter and ensure that things start to get back on track. The CM is monitoring the situation closely to ensure that any further disruption could be handled in time or avoided altogether.
As unorthodox as it may sound, the government can also call upon the “Captive” mines. These are those mining sites that produce coal directly and solely to the company that owns them. Under normal circumstances, they are not allowed to sell the produced coal to anyone else. But in the hour of need, the Government can approach and buy from them to ensure that we don’t have to import the coal at astronomical prices.
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