Heat wave: States on alert; Grid braces for record peak power demand

While a few states have heat action plans, experts warn they are not enough

Sanjeeb MukherjeeShreya Jai New Delhi
heatwave, heatwave in india

Photo: Bloomberg

On Tuesday, temperatures across the country crossed the 40-degree threshold and with it, electricity demand touched a new high of 216 Gw. With rampant heat waves across the country, the ground level management of states is stretched with many not having any heat action plan (HAP) or an under prepared one.
Both central and state agencies are gearing up to tackle the variety of impacts the heat wave will bring, from meeting high electricity demand to streamlining crop and agri produce supply chain, providing for civic needs and building weather resilient infrastructure.

Charged up electricity demand
The peak power demand on Tuesday touched a historic high of 215 gigawatt (Gw). On the electricity consumption front, India closed a peak energy demand of 4,836 million units on the same day, an increase of eight per cent over last year. In just the first fortnight of April, energy demand has risen by 23 per cent, indicating a sharp rise in use of cooling equipment.

But it is no longer just the large states such as Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat which are driving the demand. Intense heat waves in the eastern region have pushed states like West Bengal and Odisha, and the southern states towards record high power demand.
Officials in Grid India (erstwhile POSOCO), the grid operator of India, said April is a crucial month as currently there is no other energy source except thermal which is mainly coal. “The Centre was apprehensive of the April demand but it is being handled well. On Tuesday, the grid handled the highest ever electricity demand without any hiccups. There is enough power and coal in the system. Now gas is running too. North region will have some cooler days so that should shave off some peak demand,” said an official.

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In May and June, hydro and wind energy would also start supplying, which Grid India expects will take some load off thermal and keep power supply in surplus. Power demand is set to touch 230 Gw in the coming two months.
Food and civic troubles

While some states have kicked in their heat action plan (HAPs), experts feel this is not enough to tackle the current extreme weather events. In a recent assessment study by the Centre for Policy Research, it was found these HAPs to be insufficient and non-transparent. HAPs are a list of standard operating procedures (SOPs) which the state/city/municipal body needs to adhere to tackle heat related impacts.
Among all states and cities that do not have a HAP, notable is Delhi.

The assessment report which covered 37 HAPs said, though information-dissemination strategies are used under HAPs to alert the public, in the absence of reliable vulnerability and risk assessments, it is unclear whether these efforts can reach those most likely to be impacted in a cogent and timely manner (particularly across large cities and states with tens of millions of people).
“None of the HAPs reviewed systematically explored policy integration across all listed interventions. Many actions in agriculture, water, housing, infrastructure, and urban design could usefully be linked to existing policies to unlock capacity and finances,” said the report.

Another emerging crisis due to the extreme heat is the threat to the farm and food processing sectors. “There could be a shortage of raw materials and produce due to crop failure caused by the extreme temperatures, leading to price increases and supply chain disruptions. Also, high temperatures can cause fruits, vegetables, and dairy products to deteriorate, reducing their shelf life,” said Saket Chirania, co-founder, Agrizy, a digital agri supply chain management firm.
Chirania said investment in technologies such as cold storage, temperature-controlled transportation, and advanced forecasting models can ensure steady supply of raw materials and finished products.

Heat wave impact on India
What is a heat wave?

A heat wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the north-western parts of India. Heat waves typically occur between March and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July. The extreme temperatures and resultant atmospheric conditions adversely affect people living in these regions as they cause physiological stress, sometimes resulting in death.
Why is it becoming more intense with every passing year?

India is feeling the impact of climate change in terms of increased instances of heat waves which are more intense in nature with each passing year, and have a devastating impact on human health thereby increasing the number of heat wave casualties.
How detrimental is it for India?

An analytical evaluation of Heat Index with Climate Vulnerability Index shows that more than 90 per cent of the country is at extremely cautious or dangerous levels of adversely impacting adaptive livelihood capacity, food grains yield, vector-borne disease spread and urban sustainability. Due to the unprecedented burdens on public health, agriculture, and other socio-economic and cultural systems, climate change-induced heatwaves in India can hinder or reverse the country’s progress in fulfilling the sustainable development goals.: Recent study published in PLOS Climate by Ramit Debnath at University of Cambridge.
SOPs to tackle heat related health impact

If you think someone is suffering from the heat:
  • Move the person to a cool place under the shade
  • Give water or a rehydrating drink (if the person is still conscious)
  • Fan the person
  • Consult a doctor if symptoms get worse or are long lasting or the person is unconscious
  • Do not give alcohol, caffeine or aerated drink
  • Cool the person by putting a cool wet cloth on his/her face/body
  • Loosen clothes for better ventilation

First Published: Apr 19 2023 | 6:46 PM IST

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