Sunday, November 23, 2008

Government gropes in dark over power crisis

Government gropes in dark over power crisis

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Despite the pur chase of 450 MW of power from independent power producers, at a cost of Rs 400 crore, Karnataka is unlikely to tide over the shortage of power, insiders told Deccan Chronicle.

Energy minister K.S. Eshwarappa had announced only last month that Karnataka’s power woes would end on November 14 once the state had purchased 450 MW of power.

Instead, load shedding and power outages have intensified.

Officials estimate that the actual demand for power in the BJP-run state in 200809 is approximately 7,742 MW, while only 6,014 MW is available. The shortage?

1,728 MW. The 450 MW, the piffling amount of power that is being bought, will not even begin to cover the deficit.

Principal secretary (energy) K. Jairaj said power cuts were inevitable despite the purchase of power, and the huge cost to the exchequer. “We will have to continue with scheduled load shedding for the next few months at least, because of the huge demand-supply gap,” Mr Jairaj added.

Till now, 200 MW from GMR Power; 60 MW from Jindal Power; 100 MW from NTPC and 50 MW on a barter basis from GMR, is being supplied to the state grid. The energy depart ment is importing power from outside the state for next year (January-February 2009) as well. This means nearly Rs 800 crore extra investment in the energy sector for power purchase alone.

According to the managing director of Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) Vijay Narasimha, his department has called tenders for the following months as well, while bidders including NTPC, Jindal Powers, Lanco Pvt Ltd and Indian Global Energy have shown interest.

“GMR Powers which has agreed to supply 220 MW presently will continue to supply 200 MW, while the remaining 250 MW will be distributed amongst the four bidders,” he added.

Karnataka, which experienced deficient rainfall this year has fallen short by almost 30 percent in hydel energy, the immediate result of which has been frequent power cuts.

But the shortage cannot be attributed to lack of rains alone.

“Mismanagement, inefficiency and corruption in the energy department which have built up over the past fifteen years are the major contributing factors for the power crisis today. Karnataka is second in the country after Bihar in the Auxillary Technical Commercial (ATC) losses, facing 42 per cent losses from the five KPTCL companies alone,” said a senior official in the energy department. Insiders are asking that if this is the case, is it advisable to purchase power from private players at almost three times the cost?

While KPCL is selling power at anywhere between 53 paisa and Rs 2.50, private players are charging between Rs 8 and Rs 10 per unit.

The state government started with purchase of power for the months of November and December, which has now been extended to January and February 2009.

This, when independent power producers (IPP) are producing just about 5 MU in Karnataka, while IPP's across the country are contributing only 5 per cent of the total power produced.

Officials admit that IPP's are “making hay while the sun shines.” “Since we are forced to take short term measures, we are left with no choice but to import power from them,” added another official.


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