New Delhi: This summer, which has already seen record high temperatures, will soon get hotter and more uncomfortable due to longer power outages.
The limited addition of new power producing capacity, fall in hydropower generation in south India and higher demand for electricity in summer have already resulted in a severe power shortage across the country—and government officials say the situation will improve only after the onset of the monsoon rains.
India has a 12% shortage in power during the peak hours between 5pm and 11pm, but experts say this number could be higher.
“This (the shortage) was expected as projects have not come on schedule. Against our target of 11,000MW of capacity addition in 2008-09, we have achieved only 3,500MW. Hydropower generation in south has stopped due to less water in the rivers. This summer will be bad,” said a senior official at Central Electricity Authority (CEA), India’s apex power sector planning body.
Hydropower projects based in south India account for 30% or 11,400MW of the country’s installed capacity of 38,000MW of such power. To make matters worse, of country’s total installed capacity of 147,000MW, only around 85,000MW is operational at any given point of time. India plans to add 78,577MW by 2012, but Mint had reported on 28 August 2007 that it could miss this target by up to 60% because of shortage of equipment and contractors.
India’s track record in adding power generating capacity is poor: in the five years to 2007, the country added 20,950MW of capacity, against a target of 41,110MW.
“There is around 20,000MW shortage in the country. Timely completion of projects is a concern. However, we expect this summer to be same as the last. We will have shortages and there is no way of escaping them. Hydro generation has fallen by 10% and will only pick up once the monsoons are here. However, with the coming of the Krishna Godavari gas, the gas-based capacity of around 6,000MW will receive a boost,” said another CEA official who didn’t want to identified.
The monsoon rains between June and September account for nearly 80% of the annual rainfall over the country and are vital for the economy, being the main source of water for agriculture and hydropower generation across the country. India’s meteorological department (IMD) on 1 May issued a warning about a possible heat wave in some parts of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Vidarbha, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
“Compared to last year, it’s five degrees above normal and we have a heat wave on. We are in the grip of a heat wave and it’s likely to continue for a few days at least,”said Ajit Tyagi, director general of IMD.
According to data from CEA, the western region is the worst affected in the country with around 19% power shortage, with states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat reeling under a shortage of 23.7% and 23.4%, respectively.
The northern region has a shortage of 10.7% with Uttar Pradesh having a 22% shortage. To make matters worse, given the ongoing elections, many states, including Uttar Pradesh are overdrawing to please the electorate, thereby putting a strain on the grid.
States draw power from a transmission and distribution grid and overdrawing by one state could hurt the others.
Delhi is a case in point. Peak demand in Delhi is usually 4,036MW, but it is expected to touch 4,500MW during this summer. The state has already witnessed a peak demand of 3,700MW this summer.
Of the total power needed in Delhi, only around 1,300MW is generated by the power stations owned by the Delhi government and the balance is procured from elsewhere. This leaves the state vulnerable, especially during peak usage periods, when all other states are also scrambling to buy power.
“Due to problems with grid frequency (49Hz is the ideal frequency) on account of overdrawal by other (states) there has been load shedding, which is a separate issue,” said a spokesperson for Delhi Transco Ltd.
While power distribution companies such as Anil Ambani-owned BSES and Tata-owned New Delhi Power Ltd are responsible for providing power to consumers, Delhi Transco is in charge of power transmission and the upgrade, operation and maintenance of the transmission network.
Delhi has five power distribution licensees: BSES Yamuna Power Ltd, BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd, NDPL, New Delhi Municipal Corporation and Military Engineering Services (for Delhi Cantonment).
“BSES has made adequate long term, short term, banking and forwarding banking arrangements to meet the power demand in its licensed area. For the last few days, outages are taking place in Delhi due to low frequency, massive overdrawal by the neighbouring states, reduced generation at power plants. With arrangements being made for additional power, including power from the Central Unallocated Quota, Delhi’s power situation is expected to improve in the coming days,” said a BSES spokesman.
“We have tied up for requirement much in advance and we have sufficient power for distribution for our consumers,” added a NDPL spokesman.
Jacob P. Koshy contributed to this story.