Power situation in Uttar Pradesh

The summer of 2012 was yet another reminder of India’s worsening power crisis. I am sure that your good self is aware of the power situation in UP and you must be making efforts to improve upon the situation. I wish to inform you that there had been no power for 14-15 hours in a day in most of the areas and whenever it is there the supply is very erratic with low voltage and tripping.f.

The above situation has possibly arisen because of multifactional problems, summary of which I am enumerating below to refresh your honor to tackle the situation more efficiently.

Less than a decade ago, in 2003, when the situation was very bad, two key interventions aimed at stemming the rot in the sector were announced with much fanfare. One, the losses of state electricity boards (SEBs) were taken over through RBI-guaranteed bonds as a “one-time” financial clean-up exercise. Plus, the landmark Electricity Act 2003 simultaneously heralded a booster dose of fresh reforms, including the unbundling of distribution utilities, limited “open access” to consumers, state power regulators and a platform for independent tariff fixation. But the sector is back in mess, probably in a much worse position that it was 10 years ago.

As a measure to fill the gap new power projects with a capacity of 120000 MW, have been sanctioned by Govt of India and are being implemented in various states in Govt as well as private sector. Out of which as much as 48,000 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity has come up but only a fraction of this is being used. There are several reasons for this.

One, coal supplies are scarce because output from state-owned Coal India cannot keep up with explosive demand in growth. Imports are an option, but across the world, coal prices have spiked and using imported coal as fuel increases the price of electricity. States regulate the purchasing as well as selling price of power to be followed by SEBs. Governments virtually avoid raising the rates of electricity upwards even if the customers are willing to pay. The SEBs is, therefore, reluctant to purchase power as it has to be sold at a price which is below their cost price (Regulated by State government). Thus the SEBs are forced to restrict power purchases, as a result the generators have to keep capacity idling. This is a ridiculous situation in an electricity-starved nation.

A decade of political opportunism has also reversed many of the gains of early power reforms.
Many state governments give free or near-free electricity to farmers and unlimted free electricity to the existing /retired employees of SEBs. Inevitably, this translates into bankrupt state electricity boards and erratic, low-quality supplies with farmers paying a steep price to run diesel pumps and generators.
The power ministry alone cannot solve this problem. It has to be a composite effort by the state as well as central government and certain policy as well as operational decisions will have to be taken which may improve the situation. Few of the suggestions are as under.

POLICY DECISIONS /Actions to be taken by central government

  1. The government has to first scrap the 1973 Act that nationalized coal mining. Professional miners should be allowed to explore and mine coal, for boosting supplies.
  2. Regulators in the states and the Centre should offer the flexibility to adjust power tariffs up or down so that supply matches demand.
  3. To ensure that states have an incentive to act, bodies like the Finance Commission and the National development council should link central funding to progress in power reforms. The needed reforms call for political leadership and courage, not technocratic tinkering.
  4. Free the distribution sector from state government control. Then only one can see a growth in the sector. No business, either in private sector or in Govt sector would survive if the commodity (electricity) is sold below cost price. Simple economic common sense!!! If the drainage at the distribution level is plugged, the power sector will see a turn-around for the better. Customers are willing to pay for reliable and round the clock power, even if it is expensive. Cost of no power is much higher than cost of costly power!! In fact higher electricity cost would induce energy saving solutions at the consumer end!

OPERATIONAL DECISIONS/Action to be taken by the state Government.

  1. The state government should effectively persuade and follow-up with central Government for speeding up actions as above.
  2. All classes of public has to be educated / motivated well with the ideas of power generation, consumption, various tariff implementation and acceptance to be done.
  3. Subsidized power supply to the farmers be demolished.
  4. Unlimited Free electricity to the existing and retired employees of the SEBs has resulted to its gross misuse. It should either be stopped or at least should be restricted to some limits. In the alternative they may be charged their consumption at some discounted rate.
  5. The power tariffs may be suitably increased to support the SEBs financially. While doing so the rates for the small users may remain untouched but rate for the consumers with high consumptions may be increased substantially. In fact they are, at present, using diesel sets to get a regular supply and are bearing high costs. They will certainly be willing to pay for reliable and round the clock power, even if it is expensive.
  6. All over head Distribution lines to be changed to underground cable services to avoid power theft by looping method.
  7. All the Electromechanical energy meters to be replaced with digital energy meters.
  8. Prepaid energy metering to be done to avoid loss in collection of revenue after usage of electricity. In India still a very huge revenue is pending against bill payments from politicians, which could be recovered by implementing prepaid system and this should be approved to them only when the pending bill are realized that too by giving a very short stipulated time period for their bill payments without having second chance.
  9. There are lots of flaws in distribution of power at consumer sides due to higher no of officials & contractors but not designing proper loads for the DISTRIBUTION TERMINAL’s. This has to be taken care at war footing basis.
  10. The DISTRIBUTION TERMINAL’s should be installed at the required regions with a higher ratings than the actual required load at that point of time so that if some 10 – 20% extra load could be added in a span of 2-5 years.
  11. All the installations whether it is at Generation, Transmission or at Distribution should be evaluated with Star Ratings and should be with Warranty at least for 5 – 7 years.
  12. At regular interval of time the Transformers should be maintained (by oil filtrations, changing breathers, changing gaskets & lightening arrestors), the underground cables to be checked for insulation etc.
  13. After all but without fail- removing corruption from the society as well as from department of electricity, this is mandatory.

By this we could sure the society – out of power crisis…..

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