Kashmir In Midst of Worst Power Crisis
Govt Gives Up Over-Drawal From Northern Grid; Temporary Respite Expected On Durbar Move
The ongoing power crisis in Kashmir is worst in the past decade. But the worst part of the story is that the state government has volunteered for the problem by categorically deciding not to opt for over-drawal of electricity from the Northern Grid.
There may, however, come temporary spells of respite as a “goodwill package” from the government beginning with Durbar Move.
As against the average requirement of around two crore power units per day, the state has been managing to get mere around one crore units per day in the recent days with officials admitting it as “worst crisis in a decade.”
Greater Kashmir is in possession of relevant documents in support of the story as to how the government has given up the practice of buying power as per need of the energy-starved Valley.
Unlike the past when the state would buy more power in a bid to meet the demands, the state government is unwilling to spend beyond Rs 3,600 crores earmarked for annual power procurement. Simply put, the state is banking on the arbitrary power supply from the Northern Grid to avoid ‘extra burden on the State exchequer.’
But given the huge load of almost half of country on the Northern Grid, the regular supplies keep fluctuating making the stakeholders to ask for more power, which as per officials, costs more.
Highly placed sources in the Civil Secretariat Jammu said that on February 20, 2013, the Principal Secretary Power chaired a high-level meeting in his office chambers wherein it was resolved that the PDD would “strictly avoid any additional purchase of power from the Northern Grid”, as would happen in the past. Apart from others, the meeting was attended by Secretary Technical, PDD, and some officials of General Administration Department (GAD).
A source in the GAD said clear cut directions were given that “no need-based additional power procurements would be made, come what may.” The decision aimed at “avoiding extravagance on power bills not only for the last fiscal but all times to come.”
Subsequently, when the power crisis started surfacing in Kashmir last month, Financial Advisor PDD shot a circular to remind the officials “not go for any over drawals.”
“Over drawal should not take place under any pretext. The department should not be exposed to additional expenditures on account of unauthorized power purchase penalties from CERC or any other matter,” the circular read.
“Power purchase made without the prior sanction of the Finance Department/ Administrative Department, for which even agreements have been drawn, should be surrendered and stopped forthwith,” it says, adding, “The power purchase should be strictly as per the available annual budget.”
“The annual energy availability with reference to budget provision should be suitably distributed among different months of the year keeping in view the regional weather changes also,” reads the circular.
THE OVER-DRAWAL NECESSITY:
Officials said power imports from the Northern Grid keep varying due to the “tremendous pressure of energy requirement from the north Indian states”, all of which bank on this power hub.
But given the onset of summer when energy requirements of all states is more, all are in race to procure more power. “At such point of time the general supplies get reduced and consumers have to bank on overdraw which costs more and beyond the allocated budget,” explained a PDD official.
Under such circumstances, PDD in the past would instantly opt for over drawal to try meet the power demands. But as the convention has been shed, Valley is left to starve for electricity.
THE DRASTIC REDUCTION:
For now, officials said, as against the requirement of around 1600 MW in the state, the power imports remained less by around 50%. “The worst happened last week when the imports were mere 500 MW,” said a technician who monitors the energy statistics in a control room in Jammu.
VALLEY BEARS THE BRUNT:
Officials said even though the available power is to be equitably distributed in both Jammu and Kashmir regions of the state, Valley alone has been facing the power crisis this time.
Asked about the reasons, officials said: “The thumb rule had been that the power distribution was 55:45 for Kashmir (including Ladakh) and Jammu provinces respectively because Kashmiri consumers have been comparatively paying more. But for now major part of energy is given to Jammu.”
Officials said they were helpless over the new distribution system because the State Load Distribution Centre (SLDC) is based in Jammu. “For now the SLDC has given up buying our pleas,” a Kashmir-based PDD official said.
Sources said last week the PDD officials informed the government that it would be difficult to hide from people that over drawal had been given up. In response, the government seemingly played tricky by announcing “short term power purchase.”
On April 9, MoS Power Vikar Rasool announced that the state government has “decided to go for short term power purchase by adopting the process of un-requisitioned supply (URS) to overcome the problem of power shortage in some areas of the state.”
Trying to skirt the issue of giving up over drawal, the MoS blamed low generation of local power. “The power supply has been affected due to low generation, which is of the order of 250 MW in comparative terms and also because of fall in water discharge,” Rasool said.
And then he banked on sunshine. Rasool, as per an official handout, said: “With rise in temperature the situation is likely to improve in next few days as it would trigger water discharge and facilitate better generation at the major power supply stations including Dulhasti, Salal, Baglihar, Khailgao and Dardi.”
The Minister asked public to cooperate with the department by avoiding wasteful use of power.
But the Minister’s mantra couldn’t last for more than a day as the Valley again plunged into darkness.
For now, the PDD has decided to go for at least one 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM scheduled curtailment for metered areas a week, and two for non-metered. The same is likely to be pleaded before the State Electricity Regulator Authority.
But crisis may worsen more in the coming days when the winter capital will need more power and Kashmir will have to bear with longer cuts.
Highly placed sources said the next respite for Kashmir will come in May when Durbar returns to summer capital. A senior Minister is likely to announce procurement of more power as a “goodwill package” for the energy staved Kashmir.