India's electricity use falls in May due to COVID-19 lockdowns

FILE PHOTO: 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 (Reuters) - India's electricity use fell 6.2% during the first half of May compared with the second half of April, government data showed, as coronavirus lockdowns imposed by states across the country stifled power demand.

Total daily average electricity supply to states fell to 3,666 billion units during the first sixteen days of May, compared with 3,910 billion units during the second half of April, data from federal grid regulator POSOCO showed.

Industries and offices account for half the country's annual electricity consumption. Power generation in India generally starts rising from April and peaks in May due to a higher air-conditioning load.

Power use in May has been higher than the same time the previous year except in two southern states and two northeastern states, the data showed, indicating curbs have been less strict than last year despite surging deaths due to the pandemic.

India's federal government - which imposed a stringent national lockdown in April and May 2020 - has resisted imposing country-wide curbs during India's second wave, but most states have restricted movement.

Senior government officials had cited the recovery in demand for power in late 2020 as a sign the economy was beginning to recover from its worst slump in decades.

Three-fourths of the regions recorded a dip in power use in May compared with the second half of April due to curbs imposed to control the spread of the virus.

Power use rose in the northern states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi - among the regions worst affected by the coronavirus, even as overall power generation fell 6.3% compared with the second half of April.

Power supplied to Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat - India's richest and most industrial states which together account for nearly a third of the total electricity consumption - fell by over 5% each.

(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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