With India's electricity consumption increasing by nearly 10% in the first half of April and predictions of a very hot summer this year, the government is taking steps to meet possible record levels of demand in the coming months.

Power consumption in the country rose to 70.66 billion units (BU) during April 1-15 this year from 64.24 BU during the same period last year. Daily peak power demand met in the first half of April was about 218 gigawatts (GW), higher than 206 GW in the same period a year ago. The Ministry of Power expects peak power demand to be about 260 GW in the April-June period, an all-time high due to predictions of prolonged heat waves, increased industrial activities and rising consumption. India recorded the highest-ever peak hour power demand of 243 GW in September last year.

A series of measures are being implemented by the government to meet the unprecedented demand and supply, say sources. The peak energy demand grew by 12.7% from 2,15,888 megawatts (MW) in 2022-23 to 2,43,271 MW in 2023-24, while the peak demand met grew 13.9% from 2,10,725 MW in 2022-23 to 2,39,931 MW in 2023-24. Relative to the year 2022-23, the energy requirement grew by 7.5% in 2023-24. However, the energy availability grew by 7.8%, resulting in a reduction in total energy shortfall from 0.5% in 2022-23 to 0.2% in 2023-24, says the Ministry of Power.

In March, various stakeholders had a series of meetings to prevent a situation in which one state has surplus power while another state faces power shortages. Officials reviewed the power capacity status of all thermal power plants experiencing partial outages, to ensure maximum availability of thermal capacity and the status of 5.2 GW of non-operational thermal capacity. Imported coal-reliant thermal stations were also directed to ensure adequate stocks.

After review meetings, R. K. Singh, Union Minister for Power and New & Renewable Energy, has directed to postpone planned maintenance of 1.7 GW in April and 6 GW-9 GW in June to the monsoon season. Another directive is to monitor and expedite the commissioning of coal, hydro, nuclear, solar and wind capacity additions. The government is also exploring the possibility of harnessing any surplus power, which may be available with captive generating stations. Further, all thermal generating stations have been directed to offer their un-requisitioned and surplus power to power exchanges. The power ministry has also directed uniform technical minimum loading of 55% of unit capacity for all coal-based power generators as has been implemented for Inter-State Generating Stations and Regional Load Despatch Centres, to ensure the safety and reliability of the grid.

Another idea is to operationalise gas-based power plants, which are currently unutilsed, primarily due to commercial considerations. The government has issued directions under Section 11 of the Electricity Act, 2003, to use imported gas for operations as done in the case of imported-coal-based power plants. The order will  remain valid for the generation and supply of power from May 1, 2024, to June 30, 2024.

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