Delhi Power Minister Satyendar Jain, in an interview with ANI on October 12, 2021 regarding the possibility of a power shortage looming over Delhi, claimed that Delhi had no coal-fired thermal power plant of its own and the UT purchased electricity from coal-fired plants from other states. He also said the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), India's largest energy conglomerate, had capped the production capacity of all its plants to half.
"There is no coal power plant in Delhi. We buy electricity from coal plants situated in other states. NTPC capped the production capacity of all its plants to half. There can be two reasons, first coal shortage or secondly centre has told them to do it," Jain told ANI.
In fact, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had also said that Delhi could face a "power crisis soon" and appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene. "Delhi could face a power crisis. I am personally keeping a close watch over the situation. We are trying our best to avoid it. In the meanwhile, I wrote a letter to Hon'ble PM seeking his personal intervention," tweeted Kejriwal.
The CM requested that the Centre divert coal from other plants to Dadri-II and Jhajjar TPS plants, supply APM gas to gas power stations in Delhi and cap maximum rate of power.
FactChecker looked at official records to determine if all the NTPC plants, especially those supplying electricity to Delhi, had, in fact, capped their production capacities to half or not.
However, NTPC too, in a tweet, clarified that it had been supplying the required power according to Delhi's electricity demand. It had also attached an image of the data indicating its claim that Delhi's power DIStribution COMpanies or DISCOMs have been scheduling only 70% of the power being made available by NTPC.
But first, it's important to understand the logistics and workings behind the generation and distribution of electricity, and how it possibly reaches end consumers.
How is Power Generated & Distributed?
The Indian power sector can be broadly divided into generation, transmission, and distribution sectors, according to a working paper of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) called 'Meeting Emission Norms' which focuses on penalty and incentive mechanisms for coal-based power plants.
India's total power generation capacity amounts to 3,88,848.78 MegaWatts (MW) as of September 30, 2021, according to the National Power Portal. Power is generated at thermal power plants (TPPs), nuclear power plants, hydro power plants, and renewable energy sources (solar, wind, etc.). TPPs are further divided into coal-fired power plants, gas, and diesel power plants. More than 53.64% of the installed capacity of 3,88,848.78 MW is that of coal-fired power plants. In other words, out of 3,88,848.78 MW installed power generation capacity, India relies on coal for 2,08,614.5 MW.
A DISCOM purchases electricity from a power generation company within or outside the state/Union Territory it has to supply to, according to CSE's report. "If the DISCOM signs a power purchase agreement with some other state, then electricity generated by this generation company in the other state is transported with the help of a transmission company. The DISCOM pays the transmission company for its electricity transportation service," added the report.
India is divided into regional grids, which are, namely: Northern, Eastern, North-Eastern, Western, and Southern.
How does Delhi Get Power?
In the 11 days before Jain made the statement about coal shortage — from October 1 to October 11 — Delhi, which falls into the Northern regional grid, was allocated a total of 5492 MW of power on a daily basis from 45 power plant units situated outside the UT, according to Merit Order Despatch of Electricity for Rejuvenation of Income and Transparency (MERIT). Therefore, this calculation does not include Timapur Okhla Waste-To-Energy Plant, Delhi Solid Waste To Energy Plant, Gas Turbine Power Station (GTPS), Pragati Power Station-I, Pragati Power Station-III (Bawana), and East Delhi Waste to Energy Plant.
One power plant can have multiple units, and multiple power plants can be owned by a single company. For example, NTPC (a power generating company) owns multiple power plants, one of them being Dadri in Uttar Pradesh. Dadri, in turn, can have a number of its own units supplying to Delhi.
From the allocated 5492 MW power, Delhi receives 73.58% of power from 17 coal-fired thermal power units situated in different states.
Satyendar Jain said: "There is no coal power plant in Delhi. We buy electricity from coal plants situated in other states."
In the past, Delhi has also received power from two coal-fired power plants situated within the state/UT, namely: Badarpur Thermal Power Station (BTPS), and Rajghat Power House. Although, these were shut down in 2018, and 2015, respectively, due to Delhi's stumbling air quality and the plants' insufficient pollution control technology to limit pollution, highlighted the CSE report.
"The old station (Badarpur TPP) had insufficient pollution control technology to limit pollution. As a result, during the Great smog of Delhi (2017), the power plant was shut down to alleviate the acute air pollution suffered by residents of the city," read the report.
The plant was restarted on March 16, 2017. Then, the Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) proposed to close down the plant by July 2018. The Delhi DISCOMS also supported the decision as the plant was the most expensive in the entire portfolio of Delhi DISCOMS with the total cost of power being around Rs 5-5.5 per unit. After several delays, the plant was finally shut down on October 15, 2018.
For similar reasons, Rajghat Power House was forced shut in June 2015 and it never opened after that.
NTPC said: "Delhi DISCOMs scheduling only 70% of power made available by NTPC"
From the data analysed for the time period of October 1-11, 2021, out of the 45 units supplying to Delhi, 17 of them are units of thermal power plants. Moreover, 12 of the 17 units belong to six NTPC power plants.
These 12 units which supplied power to Delhi are: Rihand (Uttar Pradesh, 3 units), Dadri (UP, 2 units), Singrauli (UP, 1), Khalagaon (Bihar, 2 units), Farakka (West Bengal, 1 unit) and the Unchahar power plant (Uttar Pradesh, 3 units).
FactChecker aggregated the data from MERIT for the period of October 1-11, 2021 and found that these 12 units accounts for 39.42% or 2165 MW of the total allocated capacity to Delhi. The declared capability, which means the capability of the generating station to deliver on a daily basis, of these 12 units has been an average of around 67.95% of the allocated capacity, which means that in the first 11 days of October an average of 67.95% of the total allocated capacity of the 12 units was made available daily. So, out of the 2165MW of power allocated to Delhi through these 12 units, a maximum of 1471.33 MW was made available to Delhi.
"It takes around six hours to start a power plant. So power plants have to essentially provide a commitment on a regular basis about how much power they are technically capable of generating," said Soundaram Ramanathan, Deputy Program Manager, Centre for Science and Environment.
Of this 1471.33MW, an average of 988.87MW has been scheduled daily to Delhi by DISCOMs, which is 67.25% of the declared capability of the 12 units. This is quite close to NTPC's claim of 70% of power scheduling.
Satyendar said: "NTPC capped the production capacity of all its plants to half."
It is unclear if Delhi Power Minister meant 50% of the allocated capacity is being scheduled to Delhi or 50% of declared capability. According to data provided by MERIT, 45.6% of the total allocated capacity was scheduled to Delhi during October 1-11. While 67.95% of the total allocated power is being made available to the DISCOMs, only 45.6% of the power is being scheduled to Delhi.
An official at one of the main DISCOMs in Delhi — BSES Yamuna Power Limited (BYPL) — told FactChecker that power supply will not see any major disruption in the future. "While I can't comment on the matter as I don't have the entire state's details, I'd like to say that electricity will be provided 24x7 and there is no need to worry," said RK Jain, Focused Division Chief of BYPL office in Delhi's Pahar Ganj.
According to MERIT, in the 11 days, one unit of Dadri — Dadri TPS — which has an allocated capability of 692 MW out of 840 MW installed capacity, has had not even one unit of power scheduled to Delhi. This unit represents a relatively large amount of the total power capacity allocated to Delhi from the 12 NTPC units — 692 MW out of the total of 2165 MW or 32%. If Dadri TPS is taken out of the calculation, then data showed that in the 11 days around 94.8% of the declared capability of other 11 NTPC units was being scheduled to Delhi. This means that if looked at closely, mainly from Dadri TPS no power was scheduled for the 11 days analysed.
FactChecker tried contacting Jain and AAP Spokesperson Raghav Chadha via calls and email for clarification on Jain's statement, but they had not responded by the time this article was published.