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Record heat and India considers energy emergency

Record heat and India considers energy emergency

The elections that begin in India in two weeks threaten to be remembered not as the largest in history, but as the hottest. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) sounded the alarm a few days ago. According to expectations, from now until the end of June, there will be heat waves in different regions of the country for a period ranging from 10 to 20 days, that is, more than double the usual. To understand the implications of this, two things need to be taken into account: The first is that in a city like Delhi – which is the hottest of India's major cities, but not the hottest city at all – the average maximum temperature in May and June reaches 40 degree (i.e. in May and June). The minimum quickly exceeds 28 degrees); The second is that Indian meteorologists' cumbersome definition of a “heat wave” (“a state of air temperature that becomes fatal to the human body when exposed to it”) can be applied when two nearby weather stations record extreme temperatures for two consecutive days. Between 45 and 47 degrees.

In a country with water problems, where many people work outdoors and air conditioning remains out of reach for the majority of the population, ten or twenty days at these temperatures is bound to have a heavy cost in terms of human lives.

Precisely because India's climate – from heatwaves to monsoons – has a tangible impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of people, the government couldn't help but take notice. The Ministry of Energy is prepared to activate Article 11 of the Electricity Law, which – in the event of natural disasters, threats to national security and matters of public order – gives it the authority to limit the amount of operation of the country's power plants. Summer in India is traditionally a season Load sheddingAny more or less programmed reductions in electricity distribution correspond to peak demand generated by air conditioning. In an attempt to reduce this embarrassing phenomenon – even more so when nearly a billion people are called to cast their votes – the government may decide to operate all power plants at maximum capacity. At stake, between now and the end of June, is approximately 10.7 gigawatts of production capacity that will not be used under normal circumstances due to scheduled shutdowns. Several coal-fired power plants in the country have already been asked to postpone maintenance work at least until the arrival of monsoon rains.

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If the summer really turns out to be hotter than usual, even the Reserve Bank of India, which is struggling against an inflation rate above 4%, will have to take this into account. “The heat wave – explains Teresa John, economist at Nirmal Bang Institutional Equities – risks keeping agricultural prices high. “So we no longer expect interest rates to be cut in June, but rather in August or October.”