India is invoking an emergency rule that will force some of the country’s biggest coal power plants to operate at full capacity, as the country prepares to meet surging electricity demand and avoid blackouts.

Power stations operating on imported coal will be asked to run at full capacity for three months during the summer season to ease the burden on domestic coal supplies, according to a February 20 power ministry order seen by Bloomberg News.

Several parts of the country are witnessing unusually warm weather for this time of the year and peak electricity demand over the past week is already close to the record levels seen last summer. The government expects peak power demand to reach 229 gigawatts by April, compared with an all-time high of 215 gigawatts seen last summer.

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The affected plants include Adani Power Ltd.’s giant 4,620-megawatt facility at Mundra in Gujarat and Tata Power Co. Ltd.’s 4,000-megawatt plant in the same town. Some of these plants with fixed-price power supply contracts have not been operating at full capacity as it’s hard for them to supply electricity at those rates when imported coal prices rise.

Public interest

Press officials at the ministry didn’t respond to an email and a text message seeking comment outside office hours. Reuters reported the order earlier on Monday.

The ministry said it would invoke Section 11 of the electricity laws in the “larger public interest” and the order will be effective for three months starting March 16. It previously invoked the emergency rule last summer at the height of a power crisis. 

India’s electricity laws allow the government to force any power station to operate as directed in extraordinary circumstances, such as a natural disaster or a threat to national security or public order.