As India’s electricity demand soars, the power ministry on Tuesday reviewed the power supply situation to ensure ‘zero load shedding’ during the summer months.

Load shedding

Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

The ministry has drafted plans ranging from delaying planned maintenance of thermal power stations to mandatory operations of imported coal-based and gas-based stations till September.

In a series of meetings with industry stakeholders, Union Minister for Power, New, and Renewable Energy R K Singh emphasised the importance of adequate planning to avoid situations where one state has surplus power while another state faces shortages.

 

“The minister has directed to review the undertaking of planned maintenance of 1.7 GW in April and 6 GW – 9 GW in June.

“It has been decided that efforts are to be made to schedule/ shift the planned outages of thermal units to the monsoon season,” said a statement of the power ministry.

The statement further said the directions under Section 11 which mandate the optimal supply by the imported coal-based thermal power stations “may be extended up to 30 September, 2024.”

In October 2023, the imported coal based units were also asked to run at an optimal capacity in order to meet the rising demand.

This directive was extended recently till June 2024.

The ministry said similar directions might be issued for the gas-based power stations.

“The ministry will examine whether directions under Section 11 of The Electricity Act, 2003 needs to be issued to gas-based power plants, to ensure their operationalisation during the summer season,” it said.

Under Section 11 of the Act, the government may specify that a generating company shall, in extraordinary circumstances, operate and maintain any generating station in accordance with the directions.

Gas, like hydro power, acts as a bridge fuel or peaking power station which can be started instantly to meet a spike in power demand in real-time, unlike coal which takes time to start and stop.

Of the 24 Gw of gas grid-connected power generation capacity in the country, 14 Gw has no supply of domestic gas.

The remaining capacity is working at a sub-optimal level, based on the limited quantity of domestic gas in India.

In 2023, gas-based units worth 2.5 Gw of state-owned NTPC Ltd ran under a special arrangement of gas supply with GAIL Ltd.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Monday forecast extreme heat conditions over most parts of the country from April through June, with Central and Western India feeling the maximum impact.

It also said the number and frequency of heatwaves are also projected to be ‘above normal’ this year over the next three months.

Power demand is expected to cross 250-260 Gw this year. Last year, India witnessed record-high power demand of 240 Gw.



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