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India's Power Ministry Considers Emergency Measures Amid Rising Electricity Demand

India to invoke emergency rules for gas power plants, aiming to prevent summer power crisis amid heatwaves and national election.

By Mackenzie Crow

4/13, 05:50 EDT
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Key Takeaway

  • India's power ministry considers emergency measures to run gas-fired plants, addressing summer's high electricity demand and heatwaves.
  • Extended operation of coal plants and the opening of a new LNG terminal in April reflect strategies to diversify energy sources.
  • Government requests delay in coal plant maintenance to ensure uninterrupted power supply, highlighting challenges amid climatic stress.

Emergency Measures Considered

India's power ministry is actively considering invoking emergency measures to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply during the upcoming summer months, a period anticipated to be marked by intense heatwaves and a significant rise in electricity demand. The government's contemplation of utilizing section 11 of the electricity law to mandate the operation of gas-fired power plants underscores the critical nature of the situation. This decision aims to prevent a looming power crisis by addressing the underutilization of the country's nearly 25 gigawatts of gas-fired power capacity, some of which has decayed due to prolonged idleness. The ministry's proactive stance reflects an urgent need to prepare for the "ensuing high demand period," especially as the nation faces scorching summer temperatures expected to drive electricity usage to record highs.

Heatwaves and Elections

The timing of the potential energy crisis coincides with India's national election, adding a layer of complexity to the government's response efforts. With the India Meteorological Department forecasting hotter-than-usual temperatures and heatwaves expected to last significantly longer than the normal range, the pressure on the power sector is mounting. This scenario not only tests the resilience of India's power grid but also raises concerns about the government's preparedness to handle extreme weather events amidst crucial elections. The anticipated extreme temperatures pose risks to water availability, crop health, and could necessitate increased coal consumption to prevent power blackouts, despite a bumper output of winter-sown wheat crops potentially easing export restrictions.

Extended Directives and LNG Strategy

In response to the anticipated power supply challenges, the government has extended the directive for plants running on imported coal to operate at full capacity through September 30, initially set to expire at the end of June. This extension, along with the consideration of emergency rules for gas-fired plants, indicates a reliance on temporary measures to ensure energy supply during peak demand periods. Additionally, India is preparing to start operations at the new Chhara liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, with Gujarat State Petroleum Corp. issuing a tender for the terminal's inaugural LNG shipment expected in April. This move is part of India's broader strategy to diversify its energy mix and reduce reliance on coal and oil, aiming to increase the share of natural gas in its energy mix to 15% by 2030.

Maintenance Delays and Conclusion

The ministry has also requested coal plants scheduled for maintenance during the summer to postpone their shutdowns until the monsoon season, affecting as much as 10.7 gigawatts of capacity. This request highlights the government's efforts to balance immediate energy supply needs with long-term grid stability. While delaying maintenance may ensure a steady power supply in the short term, it underscores the challenges faced in managing the nation's energy infrastructure amid rising demand and climatic stress.

In summary, India's power ministry is taking significant steps to mitigate potential power supply disruptions during a period of heightened demand and climatic stress. The government's emergency measures, extended directives, and strategic initiatives like the Chhara LNG terminal reflect a multifaceted approach to ensuring energy security. However, these efforts also highlight the ongoing challenges in balancing the nation's immediate energy needs with its long-term sustainability and resilience goals.

Management Quotes

  • Pankaj Agarwal, Federal Power Secretary:

    "The order, already in force until the end of June for plants designed to run on imported coal, will now be extended until Oct. 15."