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Electricity consumption to surge in India, China amid heat wave, drought

However, the International Energy Agency says electricity demand is slowing globally.

Growth in global demand for electricity is expected to slow down in 2023 due to falling electricity consumption in advanced economies, while strong growth is observed in developing and emerging economies like China and India, a report released by a Paris-based energy watchdog said Wednesday.

The increasing global electricity demand is being driven by the electrification of energy systems gaining momentum as part of the ongoing efforts to decrease global emissions, the International Energy Agency said in its latest Electricity Market report.

Additionally, with rising temperatures, there is a notable surge in the adoption of air conditioning, further straining world power systems, especially since summers with extreme temperatures are becoming more frequent in many regions.

“The world’s need for electricity is set to grow strongly in the years to come,” Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA’s director for energy markets and security, said in a statement.

“And we’re encouraged to see renewables accounting for a rising share of electricity generation, resulting in declines in the use of fossil fuels for power generation.”

Electricity demand is set to drop to the lowest level in 20 years in the European Union, while it will slow down in the United States and Japan, largely due to the ongoing effects of the global energy crisis and an economic slowdown, the report said.

The IEA said renewable energy’s contribution to global electricity generation will surpass one-third by next year. Moreover, if favorable weather conditions persist, 2024 might be the first year when renewables outpace coal in worldwide electricity generation.

Growth and drought pressures Chinese grid

Following a modest 3.7% yearly rise in electricity demand in 2022, China is projected to experience a 5.3% surge in 2023, according to the IEA.

Despite the economic recovery not matching some initial expectations after the relaxation of strict pandemic measures, electricity demand is expected to receive an additional boost due to rising cooling requirements during the summer of 2023.

In 2024, China’s electricity demand will grow at 5.1%, the IEA said.

As of 2022, 30% of the world’s hydropower generation was in China but the country suffered from droughts in 2022 and 2023, which decreased hydropower output by 23% in the first half of 2023. 

That means more coal-fired generation to fill the gap, estimated to have increased by almost 8% in the first half of 2023 amid significant growth in demand. 

The IEA said coal-fired output will likely increase by 4.5% over the rest of the year and then stay roughly flat in 2024, as strong growth in renewables and nuclear power help  tackle reliance on coal. 

Wind generation grew by about 20% in the first half of this year, supported by installed capacities and favorable weather growth. 

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Migrant workers carrying shovels walk to have lunch near a construction site in Beijing, China, April 18, 2011. Credit: AP

According to the China Electricity Council, peak electricity demand is projected to reach 1,370 Gigawatts in 2023, an 80 GW increase compared to 2022, with the maximum power load expected to rise by an additional 20 GW in the event of extreme weather.

To prepare for potential large-scale power outages, China conducted its first emergency drill in collaboration with the National Energy Administration and regional governments from East China in June 2023, with various stakeholders participating, including energy regulators, power grid and generation companies, the Shanghai subway network, hospitals and the chemical industry.

India sees rising demand due to cooling requirements

In 2022, India experienced a remarkable 8.4% surge in electricity demand due to a robust post-pandemic recovery and intense heat waves. 

The strong growth trend is projected to continue in 2023, at 6.8% and 6.1% in 2024, when India’s electricity consumption is expected to surpass that of Japan and South Korea combined. 

According to the IEA, the rising usage of household appliances, a growing reliance on electrical machinery, increasing adoption of electric vehicles, and the expansion of cooling systems all contribute to the sustained growth in India’s electricity needs.

In March, India’s Central Electricity Authority said that certain sub-regions might face power supply deficits ranging from 4% to 11.3% of their respective peak demand, which could be balanced to some extent since the regions are expected to experience this at different times. 

India is anticipated to possess a slim 0.7% surplus to fulfill peak electricity demand, which is estimated to be around 230 GW. This indicates a precarious supply situation. Notably, in June 2023, there was already a peak demand of 223 GW, driven by escalating temperatures.

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A worker quenches his thirst next to power lines as a heatwave continues to lash the Indian capital, New Delhi on May 2, 2022. Credit; AP


Though India installed robust solar generation capacity, it is not enough for evening peaks when the sun is not shining, but temperatures remain high. 

The IEA said India recorded a 3.8% increase in coal-fired generation in the first half of 2023 due to strong demand growth and reduced hydropower output, which decreased by 8%. It is likely to continue increasing until 2024.

With heat waves expected to cause surges in peak demand due to increased cooling, the government ordered coal plants to run at full capacity from mid-March until the end of September to increase the security of supply. 

Edited by Mike Firn.


This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Subel Rai Bhandari for RFA.


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