Due to a combination of factors - including environmentalists' push for "green" energy like wind and solar, plus the COVID-inspired collapse in global supply chains leaving countries around the world desperate for badly needed energy supplies (from LNG to coal to unrefined crude oil) - energy crises have been unfolding in China, the UK, Continental Europe and now India, the world's largest democracy.
Just like Chinese authorities ordering energy firms to conserve supplies at all costs, numerous power plants across India could be forced to adopt rolling blackouts as coal supplies run low. A minister in Indian capital New Delhi warned Sunday that blackouts could rock the massive city over the next two days. But the nation's capital city isn't alone in suffering energy shortages: it joins two Indian states - Tamil Nadu and Odisha - which have issued warnings about the growing possibility of blackouts due to dwindling coal supplies.
According to Delhi's Power Minister Satyendra Jain, more than half of India's 135 coal-fired power plants, which supply around 70% of the country's electricity, have seen their stocks depleted to such low levels that they only have enough to guarantee power for three days before the capital city is hit with blackouts. Typically, they're supposed to keep a buffer supply of at least one month. But these aren't normal times.
"If coal supply doesn't improve, there will be a blackout in Delhi in two days," the national capital's Power Minister Satyendra Jain said today. "The coal-fired power plants that supply electricity to Delhi have to keep a minimum coal stock of one month, but now it has come down to one day," Mr Jain said.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party is pleading with the government to send emergency supplies of coal by rail: "our request to the center is that railway wagons should be arranged and coal should be transported to the plants soonest. All the plants are already running in only 55 per cent capacity," according to NDTV.
Of course, India's incredibly image-conscious government is pushing back against these warnings, with the national coal ministry insisting that there's sufficient amount of fuel to meet power plants' demand, and that the whole system is quickly bouncing back after heavy monsoons constrained dispatches of coal, per BBG.
Just like other power shortages (think: Texas, the EU) Power Minister Jain complained that the current situation in India is "man made", caused by the West's overzealousness at trying to ween the world off of coal, considered the "dirtiest" carbon-based power source,
This appears to be "a man-made crisis, just as the crisis of medical oxygen supplies during the COVID second wave," he said.
As we noted above, energy shortages aren't confined to India. Right now, economies around the world (from China to the UK/Europe to Afghanistan) are struggling to maintain adequate supplies as energy prices surge , driven by a jump in demand amid the post-COVID recovery.
But if nothing else, India's situation illustrates just how far away humanity is from being able to survive without coal, since global coal production accounts for 40% of energy produced, especially in major emerging economies like China and India.