India power demand falls for first time in 35 years

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People are silhouetted as they stand in the balconies during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to slow the spreading of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, April 5, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File Photo

CHENNAI, April 1 (Reuters) - India's annual electricity demand fell for the first time in at least 35 years in the fiscal year to March, government data reviewed by Reuters showed, mainly due to strict coronavirus lockdowns across the country.

Power demand fell 1% during the year ending March 2021, the data showed, mainly due to the imposition of lockdowns that resulted in a decline in electricity consumption for six straight months ending in August.

Demand for electricity has picked up since, and generation grew 23.3% in March from a year earlier, a Reuters analysis of daily load despatch data from federal grid operator POSOCO showed, making it the seventh consecutive monthly increase and the fastest since March 2010.

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Power generation fell 0.2% during the year 2020/21, compared with the previous year, the POSOCO data showed.

Power generation in March grew much faster than the average increase of 6% in the last six months, mainly because India had imposed an intense nationwide lockdown in the last week of March 2020, resulting in a dramatic fall in power usage.

Electricity demand has been steadily increasing this year due to a pickup in economic activity and amid higher temperatures being recorded in March in northern India, which could have led to higher use of air conditioning.

Power demand growth data has only been publicly available from 1985/1986. It had grown every year since then.

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Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Tom Hogue

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