India lost 7 bn units of power due to drought in the past 5 months: Greenpeace

India lost almost 7 billion units of electricity due to lack of cooling water that forced shut downs of coal-based thermal power plants and cost power companies Rs 2,400 crore, according to a Greenpeace report.

Drought conditions over the first five months of this year, perhaps the worst in  recent times, led to repeated shut downs and cut electricity generation in coal-based power plants in Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal, raising the spectre of another power shock like in the summer of 2012, Greenpeace stated in a release.

Greenpeace estimates that power plants like the National Thermal Power Corporation at Farraka, Adani Power at Tiroda, GMR at Warora, Mahagenco at Parli and the Karnataka Power Corporation at Raichur have been the worst affected, losing about Rs2,400 crore in revenues due to the shut downs.

Investment advisory firm Equitorials, which reviewed Greenpeace's analysis, says the environmental group has been conservative in its estimation of the losses by assuming that the power companies charge a tariff of Rs3.5 per kilowatt per hour.

"The water scarcity crippling large parts of India has already cost coal power companies nearly 7 billion units in lost electricity generation, with an estimated revenue loss of Rs2,400 crore in the first five months of 2016 alone," the NGO said.

Greenpeace India said the amount of fresh water being consumed by the country's coal-fired power plants can meet the basic water needs of about 250 million people and accused the government of having "myopic" view on managing India's water resource.

"The coal power sector is already a water guzzler, consuming 4.6 billion cubic metres a year - water that could have met the most basic needs of 251 million Indians. Shocking as these figures are, they will more than double if all proposed coal plants are built.

"We already know that the expansion of coal power will increase air pollution and deforestation; this data shows us that it will also worsen the water crisis, posing a serious financial risk to lenders and investors in these projects," said Ravi Chellam, executive director of Greenpeace India in Mumbai.

The analysis is based on daily outage reports from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) and RTI replies from National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC).

Greenpeace said that water shortages have led to coal power plants shutting down in West Bengal, Karnataka and Maharashtra while NTPC, Adani Power, GMR, Mahagenco and Karnataka Power Corporation are among the companies affected.

Most of the losses occurred between March and May, when plants have been unable to run due to a lack of water for cooling, the NGO said.

"For financiers looking to invest in the building of these coal power plants, particularly in those areas that habitually experience water stress, the water crisis should set alarm bells ringing.

"In this era of worsening climate change, coal power is an expensive habit that we simply cannot afford - not just because of the high environmental and social costs associated with it, but also because of the massive financial risks posed by these plants' dependence on vast quantities of ever-more precious water supplies," Ravi added.