Summer started much earlier than expected this year in India and the consequences are still being felt. While a violent heat wave affects all of South Asia, impacting millions of inhabitants, energy demand has increased exceptionally, causing power cuts and a situation of shortage.
Sharp decline in coal stocks
India set its record high for nationwide power consumption, according to media outlet Energyworld, surpassing a previous peak recorded in July last year. In April, in the country, energy demand even increased by 12%, causing a sharp decrease in coal reserves, the main energy source in this country of 1.4 billion inhabitants. In the Indian megalopolis of New Delhi, where the temperature reached 43.5°C on Friday, the authorities estimate that there is “less than a day’s worth of coal” left in stock in many power stations.
Rationing began to be implemented in some areas. In the state of Rajasthan, where temperatures exceed 40°C, the authorities have scheduled power cuts in factories to cope with high energy demand. In Gujarat, another state in the west of the country, industrial activity has also been reduced as demand for air conditioning increases sharply. These load shedding could however not be enough and would threaten in particular the hospital system of the capital.
In Pakistan, too, several cities suffered up to eight hours of power cuts a day last week, while rural areas suffered power cuts for half the day. And the situation is not likely to improve. Temperatures are expected to be 8°C above the seasonal normal in parts of the country, peaking at 48 degrees in parts of rural Sindh on Wednesday, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Society.
“The whole chain is put under pressure due to the heat”, explains engineer Thibault Laconde, specialist in climate impact and energy issues. “Periods of high heat are always periods of tension on the electricity supply. On the one hand because it increases consumption. On the other hand, the heat puts the entire production chain under tension and transmission of electricity”, he underlines with TF1info.
However, according to this expert, this phenomenon is particularly dangerous. “You have both temperatures that are starting to approach the physical limits of human beings. And at the same time, a power outage that means you have no ventilation, no fridge, the treatment of the ‘water which can also be faulted,’ he warns, listing the consequences of such a situation.
“It’s a really dangerous combination,” sums up Thibault Laconde, who assures that such situations could also occur in other countries than in South Asia. During the heat wave on the American west coast last June, such local shortage situations had already occurred. “The situation of extreme heat waves and power cuts is one of the most deadly combinations that climate change is preparing for us,” predicts the expert.