“Open access policy is  the biggest sop for investors in UP”

“Open access policy is  the biggest sop for investors in UP”

Known as the no ‘nonsense minister’, Uttar Pradesh Energy Minister, Srikant Sharma, unfolds the schemes of the Power Ministry, focusing policies aimed at luring investors into the state in an exclusive interview with Kulsum Mustafa.

One of the most powerful faces of BJP in the Uttar Pradesh government, Srikant Sharma , Power Minister and chief spokesperson of the state government, has been handling the state energy needs of the state with aplomb. While electricity is one of the basic needs of the people and it is of vital importance in both agriculture and industries, the role of power department has increased many folds after the government announced its ambitious programme to invite investors into the state.

Armed with an intensive, pro-active approach, loaded with public campaigns, the government  is confident that investors will come pouring in as the state holds a lot of business potential that lies untapped herewith. The government has laid out a red carpet and is formally going to unfold its programme for both domestic and foreign investors through its Uttar Pradesh Investors’ Summit 2018 to be held in Lucknow this month on February 21-22.

But before he comes to UP to invest the one demand that each industrialist would make and would like to check on the onset is whether the state can offer them uninterrupted power supply. The basic and very vital requirement for every industrial unit, for without power the feasibility of running any unit is almost nil.

Uttar Pradesh has so far failed to generate this confidence and ensure the investors that it will be able to provide them this facility and thus this has turned away many prospective investors from investing in this land of unexplored possibilities.

“Forget the past, today we are prepared 100 per cent to handle all requirements of the investors regarding power supply. My department has already announced the ‘open access’ helpline incentive for the industrialists who wish to invest in the state in any of the 11 sectors earmarked by the government,” said Srikant Sharma.  ‘Open access’ means the non-discriminatory provision for the use of transmission lines or distribution system or associated facilities with such lines or system by any licensee or consumer or a person engaged in generation in accordance with the regulations specified by the Appropriate Commission.

The minister said that through the ‘open access’ facility, the state Energy Ministry will allow the investor the sole discretion to purchase energy for running his unit from the state or outside as per his wish.

“He is free to buy power for his unit through UPPL or from any other source, or state, wherever he feels comfortable or wherever he finds it cheaper”, said Mr Sharma adding that it will be the duty of the UPPL to ensure  power is supplied uninterrupted to the investor whether he buys it from the Power Corporation or outside. The Ministry will charge the investor some nominal amount for this service.

The investor will require an NOC from the Power Corporation for ‘open access’ and the procedure, which has also been simplified. The industrialist units can go to State Load Dispatch Centre (LSDC) website www.upsldc  for registering for ‘open access’. The copy of the application for ‘open access’ can be either emailed or sent by post to the ‘open access’ help desk. The decision on this will be taken within a week of the NOC being received. This helpline desk is being monitored 24×7 by trained staff.  The chief engineer of economic wing is the nodal officer. Any delay in the granting of NOC, without any valid reason, will incur a departmental enquiry on the officer.

The Minister informed that in view of the additional power that will be coming from outside the state, transmission system is being upgraded. Mr Sharma assured that till April 2018, power will  be raised to 10,500 MW from the present 8500 MW. For better power supply the present power distribution network is being  strengthened. 435 new power sub-stations of 33/11 KW are being set up.

“The target is to complete 372 by April 2018,” informed Sharma. Stressing that the government is committed to ensuring uninterrupted supply of power in the state he said this is the basic right of every citizen and he must get it. “We are doing everything possible and are always open to negotiate with anyone  who  can provide us electricity at cheaper rates,” said the Minister.

Data has it that Uttar Pradesh generates only 40 per cent, which is 8,500 MW of the power that it requires and it has to purchase 60 per cent, which is 11,000 MW,  from outside. This requirement shoots up during peak season in summers and to meet it is an uphill task.  “We are planning ahead and have special plans for the coming summer months when the requirement of electricity is much more,” assured Mr Sharma.

The Corporation is upgrading the transformers and replacing the old lines being used to supply power to the consumers. He promised 26,000 MW extra power by 2022. “Special feeders are being made for farmers. While this is a pro- farmers’ initiative, it has dual benefits as “feeder separation will reduce the load on these lines,” said the Minister.

Supporting  the data with facts  Mr Sharma informed that by April 2018,  953 feeders will be separated. This will reduce the power load to 1000 MW and in summers it will be a big relief for the power consumers. The Minister said that there are standing instructions to replace burnt transformers expeditiously in rural areas so that agricultural operations do not suffer. “The defective transformers are being rectified within 48 hours instead of earlier 72, the time fixed earlier, and within 24 hours in urban areas”, informed the Minister.

For meeting the power demands during the summer, 25,000 new transformers are being stalled. Work is also on for the repair and maintenance of the existing transformers. The Minister said a slew of measures are being undertaken to improve the power situation of the state. This includes the ‘trust billing system’ for what he calls as ‘honest consumer’. Misuse of self -billing would invite punitive action, including heavy penalty, he said.

He further said he expects encouraging results with the introduction of e-solution app, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp  and  introduction of toll free number (1912) would become an added advantage to consumer.

The Minister said on the pattern of Ujjwala scheme, introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for providing LPG connection to the poor, power department has introduced “Saubhagya” scheme for ensuring light in the house of the poor. Mr Sharma said that while his government’s top priority is to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the consumer the second priority is to stop and check power pilferage. He said the loss due to pilferage must be reduced and his Ministry has taken many steps towards ensuring this.

Terming power theft as a disgraceful practice and one which must be stopped at all costs, the Minister said that his team has strict instructions to deal with power theft with an iron hand. He elaborated on the Gujarat model that the UP government has been following on. This, he informed, is based on formation of dedicated vigilance squads and setting-up of special police stations where cases related to power theft would be lodged. The Ministry is also to start the process of “name and shame”. Defaulters name will be published in newspapers and also put on public hoardings.

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