Assess, plan rising electricity demand

Managing rising electricity demand, driven by the increase in the number of users and record-breaking temperatures, will require far greater planning than is being done today. The process will get more complex as India moves to transition its energy sources away from fossil fuels to clean energy and renewables.

The current overdrawing of power by states like Gujarat and Maharashtra could have been avoided had there been better assessment and planning of this heightened demand. Although Coal India fell short of its annual production target, there is no coal shortage. It is the railways that are unable to transport coal from the mines to generation stations. Rising mercury saw April register a demand increase of 10.7%.

But states were unable to project the demand rise and tie up coal supply, a problem compounded by rising global coal prices. The inability of state governments to raise electricity tariffs, made worse by promises of free power, meant the exchequer having to spend more. Some 16 GW of generating capacity that used imported coal were shut – their power was simply too expensive. It is no secret that temperatures will increase, driving up demand, and rains are likely to be more torrential and intense, making coal mining difficult during the monsoons. Despite availability of coal, there is a situation in which power generation is falling short of demand.

There is a need for proper assessment of electricity demand, and for reforms to address market distortions that affect power sector supplies. India’s demand for electricity will rise, for the reasons mentioned above and rising industrial use. This demand will have to be met in the context of climate change. Without robust plans, it will be surging from one crisis to another.

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