The central government has enforced a nation-wide lockdown between March 25 and May 3 as part of its measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.  During the lockdown, several restrictions have been placed on the movement of individuals and economic activities have come to a halt barring the activities related to essential goods and services. The restrictions are being relaxed in less affected areas in a limited manner since April 20.  In this blog, we look at how the lockdown has impacted the demand and supply of electricity and what possible repercussions its prolonged effect may have on the power sector. 

Power supply saw a decrease of 25% during the lockdown (year-on-year)

As electricity cannot be stored in large amount, the power generation and supply for a given day are planned based on the forecast for demand.  The months of January and February in 2020 had seen an increase of 3% and 7% in power supply, respectively as compared to 2019 (year-on-year).  In comparison, the power supply saw a decrease of 3% between March 1 and March 24.  During the lockdown between March 24 and April 19, the total power supply saw a decrease of about 25% (year-on-year).

Figure 1: % change in power supply position between March 1 and April 19 (Y-o-Y from 2019 to 2020)

Sources: Daily Reports; POSOCO; PRS.

If we look at the consumption pattern by consumer category, in 2018-19, 41% of total electricity consumption was for industrial purposes, followed by 25% for domestic and 18% for agricultural purposes.  As the lockdown has severely reduced the industrial and commercial activities in the country, these segments would have seen a considerable decline in demand for electricity. However, note that the domestic demand may have seen an uptick as people are staying indoors.

Figure 2: Power consumption by consumer segment in 2018-19

Sources: Central Electricity Authority; PRS.

Electricity demand may continue to be subdued over the next few months. At this point, it is unclear that when lockdown restrictions are eased, how soon will economic activities return to pre COVID-19 levels. India’s growth projections also highlight a slowdown in the economy in 2020 which will further impact the demand for electricity.  On April 16, the International Monetary Fund has slashed its projection for India’s GDP growth in 2020 from 5.8% to 1.9%.

A nominal increase in energy and peak deficit levels

As power sector related operations have been classified as essential services, the plant operations and availability of fuel (primarily coal) have not been significantly constrained. This can be observed with the energy deficit and peak deficit levels during the lockdown period which have remained at a nominal level.  Energy deficit indicates the shortfall in energy supply against the demand during the day.  The average energy deficit between March 25 and April 19 has been 0.42% while the corresponding figure was 0.33% between March 1 and March 24. Similarly, the average peak deficit between March 25 and April 19 has been 0.56% as compared to 0.41% between March 1 and March 24.  Peak deficit indicates the shortfall in supply against demand during highest consumption period in a day.

Figure 3: Energy deficit and peak deficit between March 1, 2020 and April 19, 2020 (in %)

Sources: Daily Reports; POSOCO; PRS.

Coal stock with power plants increases

Coal is the primary source of power generation in the country (~71% in March 2020).  During the lockdown period, the coal stock with coal power plants has seen an increase.  As of April 19, total coal-stock with the power plants in the country (in days) has risen to 29 days as compared to 24 days on March 24. This indicates that the supply of coal has not been constrained during the lockdown, at least to the extent of meeting the requirements of power plants.

Energy mix changes during the lockdown, power generation from coal impacted

During the lockdown, power generation has been adjusted to compensate for reduced consumption, Most of this reduction in consumption has been adjusted by reduced coal power generation. As can be seen in Table 1, coal power generation reduced from an average of 2,511 MU between March 1 and March 24 to 1,873 MU between March 25 and April 19 (about 25%).  As a result, the contribution of coal in total power generation reduced from an average of 72.5% to 65.6% between these two periods.

Table 1: Energy Mix during March 1-April 19, 2020

Sources: Daily Reports; POSOCO; PRS.

This shift may be happening due to various reasons including: (i) renewable energy sources (solar, wind, and small hydro) have MUST RUN status, i.e., the power generated by them has to be given the highest priority by distribution companies, and (ii) running cost of renewable power plants is lower as compared to thermal power plants.

This suggests that if growth in electricity demand were to remain weak, the adverse impact on the coal power plants could be more as compared to other power generation sources.  This will also translate into weak demand for coal in the country as almost 87% of the domestic coal production is used by the power sector.  Note that the plant load factor (PLF) of the thermal power plants has seen a considerable decline over the years, decreasing from 77.5% in 2009-10 to 56.4% in 2019-20. Low PLF implies that coal plants have been lying idle.  Coal power plants require significant fixed costs, and they incur such costs even when the plant is lying idle. The declining capacity utilisation augmented by a weaker demand will undermine the financial viability of these plants further.

Figure 4: Power generation from coal between March 1, 2020 and April 19, 2020 (in MU)

Sources: Daily Reports; POSOCO; PRS.

Finances of the power sector to be severely impacted

Power distribution companies (discoms) buy power from generation companies and supply it to consumers.  In India, most of the discoms are state-owned utilities.  One of the key concerns in the Indian power sector has been the poor financial health of its discoms.  The discoms have had high levels of debt and have been running losses. The debt problem was partly addressed under the UDAY scheme as state governments took over 75% of the debt of state-run discoms (around 2.1 lakh crore in two years 2015-16 and 2016-17).  However, discoms have continued to register losses owing to underpricing of electricity tariff for some consumer segments, and other forms of technical and commercial losses.  Outstanding dues of discoms towards power generation companies have also been increasing, indicating financial stress in some discoms. At the end of February 2020, the total outstanding dues of discoms to generation companies stood at Rs 92,602 crore.

Due to the lockdown and its further impact in the near term, the financial situation of discoms is likely to be aggravated. This will also impact other entities in the value chain including generation companies and their fuel suppliers. This may lead to reduced availability of working capital for these entities and an increase in the risk of NPAs in the sector.  Note that, as of February 2020, the power sector has the largest share in the deployment of domestic bank credit among industries (Rs 5.4 lakh crore, 19.3% of total).

Following are some of the factors which have impacted the financial situation during the lockdown:

  • Reduced cross-subsidy: In most states, the electricity tariff for domestic and agriculture consumers is lower than the actual cost of supply. Along with the subsidy by the state governments, this gap in revenue is partly compensated by charging industrial and commercial consumers at a higher rate.  Hence, industrial and commercial segments cross-subsidise the power consumption by domestic and agricultural consumers.

  • The lockdown has led to a halt on commercial and industrial activities while people are staying indoors.  This has led to a situation where the demand from the consumer segments who cross-subsidise has decreased while the demand from consumer segments who are cross-subsidised has increased.  Due to this, the gap between revenue realised by discoms and cost of supply will widen, leading to further losses for discoms.  States may choose to bridge this gap by providing a higher subsidy.

  • Moratorium to consumers: To mitigate the financial hardship of citizens due to COVID-19, some states such as RajasthanUttar Pradesh, and Goa, among others, have provided consumers with a moratorium for payment of electricity bills. At the same time, the discoms are required to continue supplying electricity. This will mean that the return for the supply made in March and April will be delayed, leading to lesser cash in hand for discoms.

  • Some state governments such as Bihar also announced a reduction in tariff for domestic and agricultural consumers. Although, the reduction in tariff will be compensated to discoms by government subsidy.

  • Constraints with government finances: The revenue collection of states has been severely impacted as economic activities have come to a halt. Further, the state governments are directing their resources for funding relief measures such as food distribution, direct cash transfers, and healthcare. This may adversely affect or delay the subsidy transfer to discoms.

  • The UDAY scheme also requires states to progressively fund greater share in losses of discoms from their budgetary resources (10% in 2018-19, 25% in 2019-20, and 50% in 2020-21).  As losses of discoms may widen due to the above-mentioned factors, the state government’s financial burden is likely to increase.

Capacity addition may be adversely impacted

As per the National Electricity Plan,  India’s total capacity addition target is around 176 GW for 2017-2022.  This comprises of 118 GW from renewable sources, 6.8 GW from hydro sources, and 6.4 GW from coal (apart from 47.8 GW of coal-based power projects already in various stages of production as of January 2018).  

India has set a goal of installing 175 GW of Renewable Power Capacity by 2022 as part of its climate change commitments (86 GW has been installed as of January 2020).  In January 2020, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy observed that India could only install 82% and 55% of its annual renewable energy capacity addition targets in 2017-18 and 2018-19. As of January 2020, 67% of the target has been achieved for 2019-20.

Due to the impact of COVID-19, the capacity addition targets for various sources is likely to be adversely impacted in the short run as:

  • construction activities were stopped during the lockdown and will take some time to return to normal,

  • disruption in the global supply chain may lead to difficulties with the availability of key components leading to delay in execution of projects, for instance, for solar power plants, solar PV modules are mainly imported from China, and

  • reduced revenue for companies due to weak demand will leave companies with less capacity left for capital expenditure.

Key reforms likely to be delayed

Following are some of the important reforms anticipated in 2020-21 which may get delayed due to the developing situation:

  • The real-time market for electricity: The real-time market for electricity was to be operationalised from April 1, 2020. However, the lockdown has led to delay in completion of testing and trial runs. The revised date for implementation is now June 1, 2020.

  • UDAY 2.0/ADITYA: A new scheme for the financial turnaround of discoms was likely to come this year. The scheme would have provided for the installation of smart meters and incentives for rationalisation of the tariff, among other things. It remains to be seen what this scheme would be like since the situation with government finances is also going to worsen due to anticipated economic slowdown. 

  • Auction of coal blocks for commercial mining: The Coal Ministry has been considering auction of coal mines for commercial mining this year. 100% FDI has been allowed in the coal mining activity for commercial sale of coal to attract foreign players. However, the global economic slowdown may mean that the auctions may not generate enough interest from foreign as well as domestic players.

For a detailed analysis of the Indian Power Sector, please see here.  For details on the number of daily COVID-19 cases in the country and across states, please see here.  For details on the major COVID-19 related notifications released by the centre and the states, please see here.  

Mr. Ramnath Kovind completes his tenure as President in July.  With the Election Commission of India expected to notify the election dates this week, we look at how India will elect its next President.  

As the Head of the State, the President is a key part of Parliament.  The President calls the two Houses of Parliament into session on the advice of the Council of Ministers.  A Bill passed by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha does not become a law unless assented to by the President.  Further, when Parliament is not in session, the President holds the power to sign a law with immediate effect through an Ordinance.

Who elects the President?

The manner of election of the President is provided in Article 55 of the Constitution.  Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MPs and MLAs) including elected representatives from the Union Territories (UTs) of Delhi and Puducherry form the electoral college, which elects the President.  At least 50 elected representatives must propose a candidate, who must then be seconded by 50 other electors to run for the President's office.  Members of Legislative Councils and the 12 nominated members of Rajya Sabha do not participate in the voting process.

The history behind having proposers and seconders 
The requirement of having a certain number of electors propose a candidate was introduced after the experience of the first five Presidential elections.  It was common then for several candidates to put themselves up for election when they did not have a remote chance of getting elected.  In the 1967 Presidential elections, 17 candidates contested, but nine of them did not win a single vote.  This repeated again in the 1969 elections, when out of 15 candidates, five did not secure any votes.

To discourage the practice, candidates had to secure at least 10 proposers and seconders each to contest the elections from the 1974 election onwards.  A compulsory security deposit of Rs 2,500 was also introduced.  The changes were brought in through an amendment to the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Act, 1952

In 1997, the Act was further amended to increase the security deposit to Rs 15,000 and the minimum number of proposers and seconders to 50 each.

How are the votes calculated?

The Presidential election uses a special voting to tally the votes.  A different voting weightage is assigned to an MP and an MLA.  The value of each MLA's vote is determined based on the population of their state and the number of MLAs.  For instance, an MLA from UP has a value of 208 while an MLA from Sikkim has 7 (see Table 1).  Due to a Constitutional Amendment passed in 2002, the population of the state as per the 1971 census is taken for the calculation.

The value of an MP's vote is the sum of all votes of MLAs across the country divided by the number of elected MPs.  

How will the numbers look in 2022?

In the 2017 Presidential elections, electors from 31 states and the UTs of Delhi and Puducherry participated. However, in 2019, with the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Reorganization Act, the number of states were reduced to 30. The J&K Assembly was dissolved as per the Act and a new legislature for the UT of J&K is yet to be reconstituted. UTs with legislatures were not originally part of the electoral college for the election of the President. The Constitution was amended in 1992 to specifically include the UTs of Delhi and Puducherry. Note that for MLAs from J&K to participate in future Presidential elections, a similar Constitutional amendment would be required to be passed by Parliament.

Based on the assumption that J&K is not included in the 2022 Presidential election, the total number of votes of MLAs in 2022 elections will have to be adjusted.  The 87 Jammu and Kashmir MLAs must be removed from the total number of MLAs of 4,120.  Jammu and Kashmir’s contributing vote share of 6,264 must also be reduced from the total vote share of 549,495.  Adjusting for these changes, 4,033 MLAs will participate in the 2022 elections and the combined vote share of all MLAs will add up to 543,231.

Table 1: The value of votes of elected MLAs of different states at the 2017 Presidential Election

Name of State

Number of Assembly seats

Population (1971 Census)

Value of vote of each MLA

Total value of votes for the state (B x D)






Andhra Pradesh





Arunachal Pradesh



































Himachal Pradesh





Jammu and Kashmir




















Madhya Pradesh


















































Tamil Nadu




















Uttar Pradesh





West Bengal





NCT of Delhi















Source: Election Commission of India (2017); PRS.

The value of an MP’s vote correspondingly will change from 708 in 2017 to 700 in 2022. 

Value of one MP's vote =   Total value of all votes of MLAs      =   543231     =    700 
                                              Total number of elected MPs                 776

Note that the value of an MP’s vote is rounded off to the closest whole number. This brings the combined value of the votes of all MPs to 543,200 (700 x 776). 

What is the number of votes required to win?

The voting for the Presidential elections is done through the system of single transferable vote. In this system, electors rank the candidates in the order of their preference. The winning candidate must secure more than half of the total value of valid votes to win the election. This is known as the quota. 

Assuming that each elector casts his vote and that each vote is valid:

Quota = Total value of MP’s votes + Total value of MLA’s votes + 1                                                        

= 543200 + 543231 +1     =   1086431 +1     =    543,216 
                2                                   2

The anti-defection law which disallows MPs from crossing the party line does not apply to the Presidential election. This means that the MPs and MLAs can keep their ballot secret.  

The counting of votes takes place in rounds. In Round 1, only the first preference marked on each ballot is counted. If any of the candidates secures the quota at this stage, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate secures the quota in the first round, then another round of counting takes place. In this round, the votes cast to the candidate who secures the least number of votes in Round 1 are transferred. This means that these votes are now added to the second preference candidate marked on each ballot. This process is repeated till only one candidate remains. Note that it is not compulsory for an elector to mark his preference for all candidates. If no second preference is marked, then the ballots are treated as exhausted ballots in Round 2 and are not counted further.  

The fifth Presidential election which elected Mr. VV Giri is the only instance when a candidate did not secure the quota in the first round.  The second preference votes were then evaluated and Mr. Giri secured 4,20,077 of the 8,36,337 votes and was declared the President.

The only President of India to win unopposed 
India’s sixth President, Mr. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy who served from 1977 to 1982 was the only President to be elected unopposed.  37 candidates had filed their nominations for the 1977 elections, however on scrutiny, the nomination papers of 36 candidates were rejected by the Returning Officer and Mr. Reddy was the only candidate standing.