How India keeps up with its power needs, in 8 charts | Mint

How India keeps up with its power needs, in 8 charts

Demand is particularly high during the summer months when people all over the country turn to air conditioners and coolers to beat the heat, adding strain on the power grid.
Demand is particularly high during the summer months when people all over the country turn to air conditioners and coolers to beat the heat, adding strain on the power grid.

Summary

Demand for electricity has been rising much faster than the population, with further increase anticipated in the years ahead

India’s rapid economic growth in the last two decades has also reflected in its ever-rising power consumption. Demand for electricity has been rising much faster than the population, with further increase anticipated in the years ahead. Demand is particularly high during the summer months when people all over the country turn to air conditioners and coolers to beat the heat, adding strain on the power grid. But shortfalls in power supply have largely been bridged, data shows. Mint examines how the country keeps up with the requirement, especially during summers.

(Note: Gigawatt is a unit of power, and kilowatt-hour of energy. Power is the amount of energy used or demanded per unit time.)

Power play

As both commercial and residential consumption have grown leaps and bounds, the peak demand met by India’s electricity infrastructure has jumped nearly three times from 68 gigawatts (GW) in 2000-01 to 211.9 GW in the just-concluded fiscal year 2022-23 (hit at 2:47 pm on 10 June 2022). Peak demand is expected to reach 334.8 gigawatts by 2030, the power ministry’s Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has projected.

Uneven grid

Note that peak power demand corresponds to only the moment with the highest strain, and doesn’t indicate the full-year trend. To understand the full year, we look at total energy consumption. An average Indian used 94 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in April—a 150% increase in monthly use since 2000. However, states’ electricity consumption varies by economic levels. Four of the five most populous states use less per capita energy than the national average, shows a Mint analysis.

Coal’s rule

About 75% of the electricity generated in India comes from thermal power plants, which mostly use coal. When power demand spikes in the summer, it's common for coal supplies to run low (the situation is better this year). Coal is set to remain India's primary source of electricity for the foreseeable future, and as one of the world's largest carbon emitters, India needs to rapidly expand its renewable energy mix.



Summer essentials

Demand for electricity to cool households and businesses has soared over the years as Indians respond to extreme weather and shifting climatic conditions. Many more Indians now own cooling appliances, according to successive National Family Health Surveys. However, the ownership of air conditioners and coolers is low in states such as Bihar, Gujarat, and Odisha, which experience frequent heat waves during peak summer months.


Beat the heat

Last year was India’s fifth warmest on record since 1901, pushing electricity use to all-time highs. But expect that to rise further. Provisional data suggests that at the peak moment of demand in April, India’s electricity grids worked up 215.9 GW of power—a fresh record despite a relatively cooler month. But India’s infrastructure is fast catching up with its power needs, with supply shortfalls largely on their way out, suggests a Mint analysis of the five hottest years so far.


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