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India’s Energy Target Is Still In Dark

Updated: August 21, 2010 10:57 am

The government this year has raised the budgetary allocation for power sector by more than double from INR 2,130 crore to INR 5,130 crore. But the future of National Electricity Policy claiming electricity for all by 2012 is still in dark. Moreover, the world’s seventh largest energy producer is expecting to widen its peak power deficit in the current fiscal year.

                Rising economic activity and population, an improved standard of living and industrial developments all these are underlining a continuous increase in demand for power that falls short of supply every time. Maharashtra, the country’s business centre, and Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state, faced the worst power shortages. According to an analysis of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), while the former has a power deficit of 2,609 million units, the latter has of 1,351 million units. The all India power requirement for both domestic and industrial consumption is measured at 76,493 MUs while its availability is estimated at 67,513 MUs which means that the all India power shortages work out to be 8,980 MUs.

Can India meet target?

It will be very interesting to see that with an all India power shortage of 8,980 MUs (ASSOCHAM report), how the National Electricity Policy aiming to provide electricity for all households by 2012 can meet its target. In response to the target of adding 78,700 MW capacity during the 11th five year plan period, the country has added only 21,221 MW of power generation capacity till the end of March. This means that within two years, it has to add more than 50,000 MW of additional capacity in every part of the country along with proper distribution and safety norms this being comparable to building the Taj Mahal within a month.

                According to experts, given the land acquisition hurdles as all power generation plants require land, NGO activists like Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy vehemently opposing hydro power projects, politicians scoring vendetta as in Dadri project, etc the target of 78,700 MW sounds a bit impossible to achieve.

                Despite the overall increase in energy demand, the per capita energy consumption in India is still very low compared to other developing countries. Today, it has one of the highest potential for the effective use of renewable energy. India is the world’s fifth largest producer of wind power after Denmark, Germany, Spain, and US. The country has an estimated SHP (small-hydro power) potential of about 15,000 MW.

                Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi including Rajasthan are states which are power deficit by respective 1 MU, 4 MU and 19 MU in the Northern region. Jammu and Kashmir is the only State which faces zero power deficits as its power requirement is that of 900 MU against the availability of 900 MUs in northern part of the country. Uttarakhand which is considered a power surplus state, in reality it has been facing an average power deficit of 86 million unit as its power requirement is estimated at 749 MU against availability of 663 MUs in the month of April 2010.

                According to the data given by Central Electricity Authority (CEA), India had an overall deficit of power requirement by 11.4 per cent in May and the peak demand deficit was 12.8 per cent. The peak hour requirement of energy has witnessed a 12.7 per cent shortfall in all over India in June. The Western region—the industrial backbone of the country—has faced the worst a peak demand deficit of 19.5 per cent.

                Less than normal rainfall in the catchment areas of the hydro power projects in Southern, Western and Eastern part of the country has contributed to the shortfall in generation. Water levels in India’s 81 main reservoirs have more than halved from a year earlier after the lowest June monsoon rains for 83 years. Irregular power supply of coal to the power plants is also a rising problem.

Need of the hour

The transportation and distribution losses are a hindrance to the development goal in the power sector. There is an urgent need to increase the manufacturing capacity and reduce the delivery time, while maintaining high standards of quality in the production of electrical equipments, machineries and other goods. In addition to this, the Minister of State for Power, Bharatsingh Solanki at a meeting in the Merchant Chamber of Commerce said, “We have to take initiatives to upgrade our technologies and introduce new technologies in generation, transmission and distribution sectors.” A Power Project Monitoring Panel has also been set up to follow up and monitor the progress of critical projects.

                In the Annual General Meeting of Indian Chamber of Commerce in Kolkata, Sriprakash Jaiswal, Union Minister of Coal, said, “The Coal Ministry has approved five super-critical thermal power projects of National Thermal Power Corp (NTPC) and Damodar Valley Corp, located in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, WB and Maharashtra. This would add up to a power capacity of 7,260 MW and will supply power to the National Grid. The Ministry of Power is also taking care to upgrade the inter-state and inter-regional transmission systems to ensure the free flow of electricity from one part of the country to another. The aggregate inter-regional transmission capacity today is more than 20,750 MW and the plan is to increase it to 32,650 MW by the end of 11th Plan. We are hopeful that in the 12th Plan, we will be integrating Southern Region with the rest of the country and the whole country would be operating at one common frequency backed up by a strong National Grid.”

                The perennial problem of irregular coal supply to the power plants need to be addressed immediately by taking up the matter with the coal producing units which are in the public sector domain and the railways. The stocks get reduced to 2-3 days at times and sometimes the plant had to be shutdown due to non availability of coal. As a result, the consumers including the industries become the ultimate sufferer. So it is essential to have 15 days stock at the plant site for smooth running of the power plants. Whether India needs to give a major thrust to nuclear energy to overcome power shortage and fuel economic growth, given the limitations of the conventional sources of energy is a million dollar question. But the government has to come with pragmatic and attainable targets. Otherwise, the power constraints that will badly affect the economy and will become a hindrance to achieve a nine per cent growth target.

By Samarpita Roy

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