By Sudarshan Varadhan
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's northern Haryana and Punjab states have suffered electricity cuts after a directive to stop operating six of the 11 coal-fired power plants around national capital New Delhi in a bid to reduce pollution, government officials told Reuters.
New Delhi was the world's most polluted capital for the third straight year in 2020, with air quality in the region hitting hazardous levels in November, putting many people including children at risk.
The federal government-appointed Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) issued a directive on Nov. 16, asking six power plants to "remain inoperative at least till 30th November" to improve air quality.
POSOCO, the federal power grid regulator, in a letter dated Nov. 28 to state government-run utilities in Punjab And Haryana, said the companies were reporting power supply shortages when electricity demand peaked during the evening.
Two senior officials at the Punjab utility and one senior official at the Haryana utility acknowledged the power outages, saying the unscheduled power cuts were largely due to an inability to operate coal-fired power plants in the state.
The officials declined to be named because they were not authorised to speak to the media.
"We are left with no choice but to cut power because we have to adhere to the CAQM notification," one Punjab official said.
The officials said it was not immediately clear when they can resume operating the coal-fired plants, as there has been no written communication from the CAQM.
Haryana reported shortages of up to 1.4% of average consumption in November and Punjab's supply fell short of average consumption by up to 4.4%, according to Reuters calculations based on the figures mentioned in the letter.
Many Indian states including Punjab suffered electricity cuts in October because of a lack of coal.
Coal is India's dominant source of electricity generation, accounting for over 70% of annual power output. The country told global leaders during recent climate talks in Glasgow that it would continue to use the cheap fuel, but gradually reduce dependence on it.
(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan, editing by Ed Osmond)