Steps to Ensure Seamless Power Supply in Summer

Summer temperature is increasing year after year. Compared to the year 2022-23, the energy requirement grew by 7.5% in 2023-24 and the energy availability rose by 7.8%, resulting in a reduction in total energy shortfall from 0.5% in 2022-23 to 0.2% in 2023-24. This year (2024-25) the energy requirement will shoot up further. So, what are the steps being taken to cope with the situation? - P. K. Chatterjee (PK)

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We all have started experiencing the wrath of the sun. This time the summer will set yet another record – as for the upcoming summer season, the Indian Metrological Department (IMD) has projected higher-than-normal maximum and minimum temperatures across the country, except over some isolated areas of Northwest, Northeast, Central and Peninsular India. Although we are unitedly responsible for this, at this moment nothing can be done instantly – except to cool our indoor areas.

Cooling any enclosed space or creating a comfort zone inside a commercial or industrial or residential area needs seamless power supply. Thus, the demand for electricity (this year) will be higher than those in the previous years, which has already started being reflected in the rising trend of peak demands in recent months, during both solar hours and non-solar hours.

The peak energy demand had grown by 12.7% from 2,15,888 MW in 2022-23 to 2,43,271 MW in 2023-24, while the peak demand met grew by 13.9% from 2,10,725 MW in 2022-23 to 2,39,931 MW in 2023-24.

In our wide sub-continent, it is not an easy task to manage the demanding situation, still, the Government of India (GoI) has taken up a few measures to ease the situation. Let us have a look at those steps.

Utilisation of surplus power

Recently, GoI has amended the Electricity (Late Payment Surcharge and Related Matters) Rules of 2022 in order to ensure adequate supply of electricity to meet the growing demand in the country. The amendments will enhance the reliability of power supply for all consumers.

According to the Union Minister for Power and New & Renewable Energy R. K. Singh – a key amendment that has been made is related to surplus power which is within the declared generation capacity but not requisitioned by distribution companies. He has stated that some power generators were not offering this surplus power in the market, thus resulting in unused power capacity at national level.

To address this issue and optimise the use of available power, power generators who do not offer their surplus power will now not be eligible to claim capacity or fixed charges corresponding to that surplus quantum. Additionally, this surplus power cannot be offered for sale in the power exchange, at a price of more than 120% of energy charge plus applicable transmission charge. This will increase the likelihood of the surplus electricity getting purchased and utilized.

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Also, amendments have been made to align the Rules with statutory provisions related to accessing the national power grid. These amendments facilitate distribution companies facing curtailment of access due to payment defaults, in getting quicker restoration of access to the national grid once they settle their outstanding dues.

Singh has also stated that the Electricity (Late Payment Surcharge and Related Matters) Rules were introduced in 2022 to tackle cash flow challenges faced mainly by generation companies and transmission companies and to promote timely payments across the power sector. Since their notification, there has been significant progress in recovering outstanding dues, with most distribution companies now adhering to regular payment schedules. The total unpaid bills have reduced from around Rs. 1.4 lakh crores in June 2022 to around Rs. 48,000 crores in February 2024.

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Adequate advance planning

In the recent past, the power minister has held a series of meetings, emphasizing the need for ensuring zero load shedding during the summer season. In a meeting held in the Ministry in 3rd week of March, it was stressed that adequate advance planning should be done by all stakeholders, so as to prevent a situation in which one state has surplus power while another state faces power shortages.

Attempt to bring down the partial outages of TPPs

Another meeting has just been held on April 2. In that gathering, Singh has reviewed the power capacity status of all thermal power plants experiencing partial outages, with the aim of ensuring maximum availability of thermal capacity on bar. Later, it has been informed that the quantum of capacity under partial outages has come down – and measures have been suggested in order to further reduce them.

On the same day, the power minister has also held a meeting with generation companies and reviewed the status of 5.2 GW of non-operational thermal capacity.

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Power Minister R. K. Singh is conducting a meeting with the representatives of GENCOs…

Postponing the planned maintenance dates

Singh has directed to review the undertaking of planned maintenance of 1.7 GW in the month of April and 6 GW – 9 GW in the month of June. It has been decided that efforts are to be made to schedule or shift the planned outages of thermal units to the monsoon season.

Speeding up further capacity addition

According to the power ministry’s plan, capacity additions in coal, hydro, nuclear, solar and wind would be monitored, in order to expedite their commissioning.

Surplus power from captive generators

The ministry has resorted to the idea of exploring possibilities of harnessing any surplus power that may be available with captive generating stations.

Surplus power to be offered for sale

It has been decided that all thermal generating stations must offer their un-requisitioned or surplus power in power exchanges, as mandated by the recently notified rules. Accordingly, it has been directed that compliance needs are to be monitored regularly – and notices will be issued for violation of directions.

Uniform technical minimum loading of 55% of unit capacity

Against the issue of infeasible power scheduling by various DISCOMs that was raised by NTPC, the power minister has directed that uniform technical minimum loading of 55% of unit capacity may be mandated for all coal-based power generators as has been implemented for Inter-State Generating Stations and Regional Load Despatch Centres. This is aimed at ensuring technical minimum conditions while issuing schedules and for the safety and reliability of the grid.

Operationalisation of gas-based capacity to be reviewed

Power minister Singh has directed that a meeting is to be conducted with all developers of gas-based power projects as well, to review the operationalisation of gas-based capacity during the summer season. The ministry will examine whether directions under Section 11 of the Electricity Act, 2003, under which the appropriate government may specify that a generating company shall, in extraordinary circumstances operate and maintain any generating station in accordance with the directions of that government, needs to be issued to gas-based power plants, on similar lines as done for imported coal-based power plants, in order to ensure their operationalisation during the upcoming summer season.

Section 11 directions to be extended till September 2024

It has also been decided that, considering the energy provided by imported coal-based power plants, the directions under Section 11 may be extended up to 30th September, 2024.

By P. K. Chatterjee (PK)

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