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India has invoked an emergency provision to order its idling gas-fired power stations to operate during the summer, as electricity demand starts to rise.

The order will be valid for the two months ending June 30, part of measures to prepare for the “ensuing high demand period,” the power ministry said in a statement Saturday. India’s gas-fired power capacity of almost 25 gigawatts has been underutilized for years, unable to compete in a price-competitive energy market. Some plants are in a state of decay due to prolonged idling. 

The South Asian nation is already in the grip of a scorching summer that’s driving up electricity usage. Maximum demand is expected to reach a record 250 gigawatts with the weather department predicting a hotter than normal season.

Keeping steady power supply will be crucial in dealing with heat wave conditions, ensuring running fans and air conditioners at homes and hospitals as well as keeping water flowing. The national election that starts later this month and concludes early June — coinciding with the hottest months in the country — is putting pressure on the government to cut power outages.    

The ministry’s order is based on Section 11 of the electricity law, which empowers the government to force any generating plant to operate as directed in extraordinary circumstances, such as a natural disaster or a threat to national security or public order. 

The order, already in force until the end of June for plants designed to run on imported coal, will now be extended until Oct. 15, according to Pankaj Agarwal, federal power secretary.

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