Rising Heat Across India Raises Alarm On Another Energy Crunch
High temperatures in parts of India have pushed electricity demand to near-record levels in recent weeks, fueling concerns about another summer strain on electricity supplies.
Peak demand for electricity hit 211 gigawatts in January, an all-time high last summer as heavy industry roared back from pandemic restrictions and people grappled with sweltering temperatures that broke a 122-year-old record.
Temperatures have been 11C above normal in some areas over the past week, and the India Meteorological Department has advised farmers to check wheat and other crops for signs of heat stress.
The unusually early onset of hot weather — and predictions that power consumption will increase as irrigation pumps and air conditioners shrink — are fueling concerns that the country’s energy grid will come under new strain after two years of continuous outages.
Thermal power plants that use imported coal have already been ordered to operate at full capacity for three months in the summer to avoid power cuts and reduce pressure on domestic coal supplies. Electricity demand will hit a new high of 229 GW in April, the power ministry said.
“The way the temperature is rising – which is very unusual for February – the situation is becoming a matter of concern for us,” says Banwar Singh Badi, the power minister in Rajasthan, where electricity is already being supplied to households and farmers. “Power demand may go up by 20% to 30% over last summer. There is no option but to cut power supply.”
Rajasthan is a hotbed of solar power, but could struggle to ensure adequate power supply during the summer months if coal is delayed from mines in other regions.
Coal contributes more than 70% of India’s electricity generation, and stocks at power plants are short of the 45 million tonne target the government has asked to be achieved by the end of March.
According to Mrityunjay Mohapatra, Director General of Meteorology, India Meteorological Department, the current high temperatures are not necessarily a signal for extreme weather from March to May. “It’s natural to get excited when it’s hot like this in February.
Odisha’s Energy Minister Pratap Kesari Deb said India’s ability to meet its summer power needs will be determined by efforts to ensure enough coal is mined and transported.
If the coal supply is assured, “everything will fall into place,” he said.