India has stepped up the use of coal to generate electricity in a bid to stop outages caused by lower hydroelectricity output, as an increase in renewables is struggling to keep pace with record power demand.

It is unusual for India’s electricity use to spike in August, when temperatures are lower due to the annual monsoon that runs between June and September. Demand typically peaks in May, when Indians crank up air-conditioners to beat the heat and industries operate without rain-related disruptions.

However, the driest August in more than a century has resulted in power generation surging to a record 162.7 billion kilowatt hours (units), an analysis by the Reuters news agency of data from the federal grid operator Grid India showed.

Coal’s share in power output rose to 66.7 percent in August – the highest for the month in six years, according to a Reuters analysis of government data. Lower rainfall led to the share of hydropower in overall output plunging to 14.8 percent, compared with 18.1 percent in the same period last year.

The government has repeatedly defended the use of coal, citing lower per capita emissions compared with richer nations and rising renewable energy output.

Despite higher demand for coal, power plants have slashed imports by 24 percent to 17.85 million metric tonnes during the first four months of the fiscal year ending in March 2024, government data showed, due to a 10.7 percent increase in production by the state-run Coal India.

Source: Aljazeera

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