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Electricity demand in India may go up substantially this year as forecasters predict the possibility of an extended summer. Moderate weather in April, however, has kept power consumption almost flat in a month when demand usually starts picking up. Thunderstorms and showers in parts of the country this month brought relief for distribution companies that have limited paying capacity and face congestion in power transmission.
However, the possibility of El Nino, a weather condition that usually affects monsoon rains in India, may trigger higher power demand for irrigation towards the fag end of summer. Delayed or scanty rains would reduce water levels in reservoirs, hurting operations of hydropower stations and possibly exacerbating the power situation.
In April, power demand was flat compared with the same month in the past couple of years. Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab did not procure much power from the marketto meet short-term requirements as moderate weather kept electricity demand in control. Despite this sluggish demand, electricity prices on trading exchanges increased to about Rs3.70 a unit from Rs3 in March. It will swell further as summer intensifies and consumers demand more power for cooling, said an electricity trader based in Ahmedabad.
"Demand for electricity starts going up from April but this time demand went up only marginally," said a top executive of a state utility, citing higher usage of electronic gadgets in households and commercial establishments for the rise as moderate weather helped keep cooling demand in check.
However, he expects consumption to start gaining momentum soon. "According to weather projections, we are expecting an extended summer and higher electricity demands to continue till August instead of July," he said. He expects the picture to become clearer "as we go closer to monsoons". India may face acute power shortage if the monsoon reaches late and triggers demand for more power when thermal power stations are shut and hydroelectric projects generate less, he said.
Tata Power Delhi Distribution, which distributes power in parts of the capital, is expecting demand to go over 6,100 MW in Delhi this year. "Last year, the Central Electricity Authority projected Delhi's electricity demand to go up to 6,063 MW but it remained limited to 5,653 MW. We are expecting it to rise to 6,100 mw in view of the El Nino condition that may delay monsoons," said Chief Executive Praveer Sinha. The company didn't see any change in supplies during April.
Commenting on the demand and supply scenario, Indian Energy Exchange director for business development Rajesh Kumar Mediratta said: "Since 2009, India has added close to 70,000 MW of generation capacity, which would have been good enough to take care of the country's power demands if we had built adequate transmission capacities. A substantial chunk of power generated in India remains locked in certain regions due to lack of evacuation capacities." The last time India witnessed El Nino conditions were in 2009, when monsoon rains were poor.
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