India sees record peak demand for power in north as heatwave persists

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Peak demand for power in India’s hot, arid northern plains hit a record on Monday, the government said as it continues to implement measures to meet high energy consumption, although the weeks’ long heatwave is forecast to abate soon.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted above-normal temperatures for June in the northwest and central parts of the country, making it one of the longest heatwave spells.

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Government data shows that there were nearly 25,000 cases of suspected heat stroke and 56 people lost their lives in the sweltering heat across the country from March-May.

India’s power ministry said demand for power at the peak time on Monday reached 89 gigawatt (GW), the highest ever for the northern region, adding that the strong demand, which has prevailed since May 17, was "challenging".

The temperature in the national capital Delhi was about 44 degrees Celsius (111.2 Fahrenheit) late Monday afternoon but the IMD said it felt like 49.2 C.

In Delhi, which is facing a water shortage, the highest daily temperatures have stayed above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) since May 12 and are forecast to fall below that mark only on June 26.

The ministry said it was able to supply power to the northern parts by importing 25-30 percent from neighboring regions and urging all utilities to minimize forced outages of equipment.

This summer has seen a record peak 250GW demand for power throughout the country, with the ministry implementing various measures as the need for air conditioners and other cooling appliances rises.

The IMD expects some respite from the heat from Thursday although the monsoon has delivered a fifth less rain than normal so far this season.

Sweltering heat and policy measures have fueled a surge in the use of gas-fired power, with power generation doubling in April and May to 8.9 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) compared with the same period last year, according to data from Grid India.

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