Mumbai: Maharashtra’s efforts to make the state free of power cuts by the end of 2012 may not bear fruit due to low reservoir water levels in the Marathwada region, coupled with a natural gas shortage in the country. Both gas and water are required to generate electricity.
During its 2009 election campaign, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance made this assurance and, on 1 October, the state government-owned power distribution utility, Mahavitaran Ltd, had announced that 80% of the state was free of power outages.
However, data obtained from the state water resources department last week revealed that dams in the Marathwada region are left with a mere 18% of water on average.
The first to bear the brunt was state-owned power generation utility Maharashtra State Power Generation Co. Ltd (Mahagenco) which, on 15 November, was forced to shut down two units of its Parali Thermal Power Station, totalling 460 megawatts (MW). The Parali factory, located in Beed district of the Marathwada region, has a total capacity of 1,130MW.
The state also faces a gas shortage. The Mahagenco-owned 852MW gas-based power plant at Uran is operating only at 300MW capacity, while the Union government-owned 1,967MW Ratnagiri Gas and Power Pvt. Ltd plant is operating at one-thirds its capacity.
Mahagenco draws water from the nearby Khadka barrage that receives an average of 35 million litres per day (mld) of water daily from the Jaikwadi and Majalgaon dams, which are located upstream on the Godavari river. But, it has not received a drop of water from both these dams for the past 15 days.
“Some water is available in one of the nearby dams and we have asked the state government to allocate that water to us,” Mahagenco’s managing director Ashish Sharma said. “If we get the water, we will able to run the rest of the plant without any hiccups till the onset of the next monsoon.”
“If the situation (water and gas shortages) continues, we have two options—either buy expensive power from the market or order power cuts. Everything will depend upon the state government’s decision,” said a Mahavitaran official, who did not want to be identified.
“Mahavitaran doesn’t require any additional power during the evening,” managing director Ajoy Mehta said. “However, we currently require 300-400MW during the daytime, and due to sufficient availability of electricity in the country, rates of merchant power are not as high as they used to be...currently around Rs.4 per unit.”
“Mahagenco’s power is available at around Rs.2.60 per unit and power is available on exchanges or through a trader between Rs.3.60 and Rs.3.90, which means every 100MW purchase by Mahavitaran through the open market is going to put a burden of Rs.6 crore per month on consumers,” said Ashok Pendse, consumer representative at the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission. “So, if the state government wants to keep its promise of making the state load shedding-free, it should pay Mahavitaran from its own coffers and not put the burden on electricity consumers.”
Repeated calls and text messages to state energy minister Rajesh Tope did not elicit any response.