Power minister warns Delhi to brace for more blackouts

NEW DELHI Tue Jun 10, 2014 3:26pm IST

A boy reacts to the camera as he plays in an alley in New Delhi September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Files

A boy reacts to the camera as he plays in an alley in New Delhi September 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Adnan Abidi/Files

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Residents in Delhi should brace for more power cuts amid scorching summer heat, the power minister said on Tuesday, warning that dilapidated power grids could not cope with the extra electricity needed to meet demand.

North India has endured a heatwave in the last week, with temperatures in some parts of Delhi reaching a 62-year high.

The surge in demand from residents cranking up their air conditioning, and damage to power lines during a recent storm, has overwhelmed the grid, sparking outages across North India and forcing Delhi to introduce emergency power-saving measures.

Piyush Goyal, minister of state for power, coal, and new and renewable energy, said "inadequate" transmission lines meant Delhi could absorb 400 megawatts of power on top of its existing 5,300 MW, falling short of current peak demand of 5,800 MW.

"Clearly the power grid as it stands today is outdated, needs augmentation and modernisation and may repeatedly have outages and tripping problems," he told a press conference after meeting with local power officials.

Three weeks after winning a national election on pledges to boost the economy and improve basic services, Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces a big challenge meeting the growing demands for reliable and affordable power and water.

In Uttar Pradesh, where less than half of homes have power, angry locals set electricity substations on fire and took power company officials hostage at the weekend in protest at the recent blackouts, media reports said.

Goyal said engineers in Delhi were working 24 hours a day to fix broken lines, while the government has ordered GAIL (GAIL.NS) to provide extra gas to a huge plant near the city functioning at a fifth of its capacity.

(Reporting by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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