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Power crisis: Centre may bail out Punjab
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 20
The power crisis in North India created by the failure of the south-west monsoon today echoed in the Union Cabinet Secretary’s meeting where Punjab was reportedly singled out as the worst affected area.

The Union Government, sources say, may work out a package to bail this food bowl of the country out of its present crisis by increasing its quota from unallocated Central sector generating stations.

“The failure of the monsoons has put us in a bind,” says Mr Y.S. Ratra, Chairman of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), maintaining that against a total requirement of 4634 MW last year, the state needed 5583 MW now.

“We have so far spent Rs 2314 crore on purchasing power from outside, which is Rs 840 cr more than last year. Between June 1 and July 14 this year, 488 MUs have been diverted from industrial, commercial, urban and domestic sectors to tubewells. We do not know for how long we have to buy from outside sources and overdraw from the system to keep rural tubewells running. All the power we are buying from outside is with our own money and the state government is not giving us anything.

“At times we have to pay up to Rs 6 per unit which we in return supply to agricultural tubewells at 57 paise a unit. The State Regulatory Commission is not going to give us any relief on this account,” says Mr Ratra.

“Total availability of power, however, has dropped from 4326 MW last year to 4225 MW this year. The main reason for shortage has been lesser generation from hydro units. The combined hydro generation of State’s own projects and those of the BBMB was at 72 per cent level of last year as the snow cap was only 40 per cent of last year. Poor and delayed monsoon has affected the level in major reservoirs adversely,” says Mr Ratra. The board has been able to ensure uninterrupted power supply for eight hours to farmers was entirely because of its own efforts. “We buy from outside, run our thermal units to their capacity and take the losses.

“In 2002-03, we were in losses to the tune of Rs 436 crore. But last year we turned around and profit of Rs 180 cr. This was made possible as our revenue receipts increased by Rs 706 cr, net interest paid reduced by 131 cr. The net effect of tariff increase was Rs 274 cr and increased metered sale yielded another Rs 284 cr. More hydro generation, saving in rail freight, reduction in transit losses, better management of power purchase, reduction in interest on institutional loans and government loans have been the factors that have put the Board in a profit this year,” says Mr Ratra.

He says that to sustain the growth of both industrial and agricultural sector, Punjab had to increase its generation capacity so as to minimise the gap between demand and supply. Some projects, including Micro HEP Ropar, Mukerian HEP-II and Lehra Mohabbat-II are scheduled to be commissioned in next couple of years. 
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