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Punjab power demand soars, cuts likely to stop grid failure

Yet-to-peak paddy transplantation adds to crisis

Punjab power demand soars, cuts likely to stop grid failure


Tribune News Service

Aman Sood

Patiala, June 17

Punjab is on the brink of levying unilateral power cuts as well as putting “restrictions on certain power consumers” in case power demand in the state breaches the 16,000 MW-mark, the tipping point that warns of grid failure. The demand this month is almost 40 per cent more compared to what it was last year in the same month.

Following the current prolonged heat wave and advancement of the paddy transplantation date, the peak power demand in Punjab has touched an all-time high and is hovering around 15,500 MW since the past three days. Officials have warned that in case the demand crosses 16,000 MW, they would have no option but to “resort to power cuts” so as to prevent the grid from tripping and, as a worst-case scenario, even failing.

A senior Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Tribune that “although ample arrangements” had been made to meet the high demand, the extended heat wave and lack of rainfall meant that the 16,000 MW mark could, indeed, be breached.

This, the official warned, would leave the state power corporation with no option “but to impose power cuts” across the board, from villages to cities.

“We are keeping a close eye on the power demand, and anything nearing 16,000 MW means we will have to resort to forced cuts to save the grid system,” the official said, adding, “If that happens, we will have to supply power to paddy fields at night and ensure minimal cuts for consumers during the day to meet supply-demand gap,” he added.

The aforesaid senior official said that the paddy transplantation date, which last year took place in three phases from June 16 to June 21 for most parts of Punjab, had been fixed for June 15 this season. “This is the real reason for the sudden increase in addition to the scorching heat,” he added.

The power demand of 15,400 MW in the past five days is many times more this year, this despite the fact that over 60 per cent of Punjab’s paddy is yet to be transplanted.

As per Northern Regional Load Despatch Centre (NRLDC) data, power demand in Punjab was 15,478 MW on June 13, 15,725 MW (highest recorded till date) on June 14, 15,478 MW on June 15, 15,030 MW on June 16 and 15,450 MW on June 17. “Punjab’s present transmission capacity is 9,500 MW and this means that 16,000 MW of power can be supplied. By June-end, transmission capacity is usually enhanced to 9,800 MW, which would mean that we can supply about 16,300 MW. Anything above that means we will forced to go in for power outages. It is imperative that the government begins to implement strict measures, including the withdrawal of free power for eight hours daily to farmers,” a top PSPCL official said.

“In case, a thermal unit trips due to a fault either in the state sector or private thermal plants, the demand and supply gap will increase immediately, putting consumers to face hardships. The most common problem is a boiler leakage problem which takes about three days to fix,” said All-India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) spokesperson VK Gupta.

AIPEF, in fact, has urged the Punjab Government to review free-power policy and postpone paddy sowing date to June-end. In a letter to the Punjab Government, AIPEF has warned of power snags as demand increases. “The office timings should be changed from 7 am to 2 pm and all commercial establishments should be closed by 7 pm. Peak load restrictions should be imposed on industry,” says the AIPEF letter.

“Paddy sowing in the remaining areas of Punjab should be shifted to June 25, and no one should be allowed to violate the date. Water-guzzling varieties like PUSA 44 should be banned, while rice varieties like PR126, basmati, etc., which mature in 90 days, should be encouraged,” said AIPEF. AIPEF chairman Shailendra Dubey also said he wants Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann to write to the Union Minister for Power “to allocate at least 1,000 MW additional power from the central pool on top priority”.

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