What caused the Shortage of Power in Punjab?

India Jul 29, 2021

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This month, the land of five rivers faced yet another crisis; this time related to electric power.

The soaring temperature and the fact that it was the peak paddy transplantation season caused the power demand to reach 14,225MW. However, the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) could only supply 12,800MW with the gap of 1,425MW triggering almost 14-hour  power cuts in the domestic sector.

In addition to that, PSPCL  imposed a two-day compulsory cut on high-consumption industries to divert power for crops and the domestic sector. Moreover, running of air conditioners in government offices is also banned, the timing was previously curtailed from 8 am to 2 pm because of the shortage.

The government-run thermal plant in Bathinda and two units of another government thermal plant in Ropar (880MW combined capacity) were shut down as one of the first decisions of the  Congress government. There were no alternate arrangements made to make up for the production loss.

Furthermore, PSPCL’s plan to install a 100MW solar plant at Bathinda thermal plant and a  proposal to convert a unit of Bathinda thermal to process biomass fuel using paddy straw got rejected by the government. A unit of private TSPL Power Plant at Talwandi Sabo has been shut since March 8 needing repairs.

Former PSPCL chairman Baldev Singh Sra expressed his surprise at the unit being shut for four months blaming faulty Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). The PSPCL is also facing a fund crunch. Rs 5,000 crore on account of agriculture subsidy and Rs 2,000 crore are owed by the government and government offices to PSPCL.

In a recent power review meeting,  Chief Minister Amarinder Singh directed the department of finance to release Rs 500 crore for purchasing power. However, the state has a transmission capacity of only 13,000MW, as the Punjab State Transmission Corporation Limited (PSTCL) did not enhance the transmission capacity by upgrading the capacity of 400/220KV transmission lines and ICTs.

Sra also blames the government’s inability to take action at the right time and the failure of planning for this unprecedented crisis. He points out that not a single regular CMD of PSTCL, since its inception in April 2010, has been appointed and that the CMD of PSPCL, A. Venu Prasad, who is a bright officer, is too overburdened.

A. Venu Prasad, though, blames the failure of the Talwandi Sabo power plant and the hailstorm between June 10 and 15.  He also talks about how the water level was going further down in the state and more power was required to pull out water from the deep bore wells; claiming the government was committed to supplying power and they had already started purchasing power from outside to tide over the crisis.

Industries were shut for two days and the domestic consumers had to face long cuts. Some places didn’t have any power at all; causing many villages to protest. There’s finally a ray of hope as we start to go back to normal with Capt Amarinder withdrawing power restrictions on the industry after the partial restoration of the Talwandi Sabo power plant.

What do you think about this? Is there something else that could have been or be done?

This article has been written by Ruchi Thakur for The Paradigm

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