Government Goes into Overdrive to Ensure Energy Demand is Met in Summer

A series of directives have been issued to coal-based thermal generating stations


Anticipating an energy demand higher than in previous years as temperatures rise across the country, the government is taking measures to ensure zero load shedding in the summer months.

Union Minister for Power and New & Renewable Energy R. K. Singh has held a series of meetings where it was stressed that all stakeholders should do adequate planning to prevent a situation in which one state has surplus power while another state faces power shortages.

While partial outages at thermal plants are being brought down, the Ministry of Power is considering shifting the planned maintenance of 1.7 GW in April and 6-9 GW in June at these facilities to the monsoon season.

In an indication that India has no option yet other than coal to meet much of its power needs, the government has issued a series of directives to coal-based generating stations. Coal production in India crossed 1 billion tons this year, surpassing last year’s coal production of 893.19 million tons.

The ministry has said it will review the 5.2 GW of non-operational thermal capacity while keeping a close watch on capacity additions in coal, hydro, nuclear, solar, and wind to expedite the commissioning of projects.

The government feels that electricity demand will be higher than in previous years, also reflected in the rising peak demand trajectory in the last few months during both solar and non-solar hours.

The Central Electricity Authority has forecast an all-India peak power demand of 256.53 GW in 2024-25. The demand, driven by heightened industrial activity, will likely soar above 256 GW in September 2024.

The peak energy demand grew 12.7% from 215.88 GW in 2022-23 to 243.27 GW in 2023-24. The peak demand met rose 13.9% from 210.72 GW in 2022-23 to 239.93 GW in 2023-24.

The energy requirement grew 7.5% in 2023-24 over the previous year. Energy availability also rose 7.8%, reducing total energy shortfall from 0.5% in 2022-23 to 0.2% in 2023-24.

Singh has directed that uniform technical minimum loading of 55% of unit capacity be mandated for all coal-based power generators as implemented for Inter-State Generating Stations and Regional Load Despatch Centers. This is aimed at ensuring technical minimum conditions while issuing schedules and for the safety and reliability of the grid.

Among other measures the government is considering is to explore the possibility of harnessing any surplus power that could be available with captive generating stations.

Surplus power mandate

All thermal generating stations must offer their un-requisitioned/surplus power in power exchanges, failing which notices would be issued to the violators. The government has amended the Electricity (Late Payment Surcharge and Related Matters) Rules, 2022, to ensure adequate electricity supply. The amendment was made in light of some power generators not offering surplus power in the market, leading to unused capacity nationally.

The government will also examine whether directions under Section 11 of The Electricity Act, 2003, under which the appropriate government may specify that a generating company must, in extraordinary circumstances, operate and maintain any generating station per the directions of that government, needs to be issued to gas-based power plants.

This emergency measure, applied to power plants based on imported coal, will likely be extended until September 30, 2024.

Reeling from a severe energy shortfall last September, Karnataka invoked the emergency provision to procure power open access generators of thermal, renewable, and co-generation sources.