Energy Efficiency

COVID-19 candle plan: Delhi power demand dropped 37% in 25 min

Delhi’s power demand fell down to 1,257 MW at 9:10 pm from 2,008 MW at 8:45 pm on April 5

By Avikal Somvanshi
Published: Monday 06 April 2020

On April 5, 2020, India conducted yet another unprecedented collective behavioral experiment on the directions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. All households across the city switched off domestic lights at 9 pm in solidarity towards nation’s fight against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The experiment managed to reduce the national power load on the grid — it fell by 31,089 megawatt (MW) , according to the preliminary report released by the Power System Operation Corp Ltd.

The medical, social, political, and societal implications of this latest exercise by the PM are up for debate, but here is a granular look at the energy and pollution impact of it on Delhi.

Fall in Delhi power demand  

Delhi’s power demand fell down to 1,257 megawatt (MW) at 9:10 pm from 2,008 MW at 8:45 pm on April 5. This was a 37 per drop in power demand, sharper than national number that stood at 27 per cent for the same timestamp.

The demand went back to its normal cycle by 9:45 pm. This 751 MW drop may seem incredible in current lockdown and spring conditions, but is relatively small if compared to regular times. On March 31, 2019, the demand load on the city grid was about 3,000 MW.

The exercise has been useful to get a good understanding of domestic lighting and its impact on country’s electricity demand. It can help us better understand the operational energy efficiency impact of government schemes such as Bachat Lamp Yojana.

So far all the energy saving claims of the scheme is based on assumption that each new LED lamp is replacing an incandescent lamp, but there has not been any large scale survey as to how people are using these LED lamps in real life. Now we have some benchmark to
work with.

Power demand in Delhi on April 5, 2020. Source: CSE analysis of real-time data from State Load Dispatch Center, Delhi. 

Lighting vs cooling

Another interesting thing to note is the city has not started using air conditioners yet, and relative contribution of ACs on the power demand is way higher.

For example, on 9 June, 2018, when a thunderstorm cooled the city down from 34 degree Celsius to 24 °C, the instinctive switching off of ACs in the city brought power demand down from 5,600 MW at 5 pm to 3,323 MW at 5:30 pm.

This implied there was a 2,277 MW (or 41 per cent) drop in 30 minutes, almost thrice the impact witnessed on April 5, 2020.

This also shed light on the energy inequality among different domestic energy usage. While light bulbs, used by almost every household in the city, could reduce power demand by 750 MW, ACs could do so by almost three times (2,277 MW), even though only a fraction of Delhi households use them and not everyone switched it off during the 2018 thunderstorm.

The energy challenge posed by air conditioning to the power grid and energy security of the country is immense. There is a dire need to start working towards containing the AC pandemic that is expected to explode as it gets hotter. 


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