High demand, humidity trip Delhi discoms

Delhi needs twice the power consumed in Mumbai and three times the demand of Chennai and Kolkata

Electricity consumption in the capital hit a record 6,260 megawatts on Thursday afternoon. Photo: Bloomberg
Electricity consumption in the capital hit a record 6,260 megawatts on Thursday afternoon. Photo: Bloomberg

New Delhi: The Delhi government has targeted power utilities for outages in the national capital region at the peak of summer, but on Thursday, state-run transmission firm Delhi Transco Ltd identified two other reasons: Rising humidity and record high electricity consumption.

Electricity consumption in the capital hit a record 6,260 megawatts on Thursday afternoon, highlighting the need for greater investments in repair and maintenance that companies in the highly regulated sector struggle to find in the wake of losses from power thefts and delays in tariff revision.

DTL said electricity demand has been rising year on year, with Delhi consuming twice the power consumed in Mumbai and three times what is consumed in Chennai and Kolkata. The demand in the entire north-east region is less than half of the demand in Delhi, said the firm.

“If the heat and humidity continue to persist, the demand for power may go up to 6,500MW during the current summers,” DTL said in a statement.

Delhi Transco Ltd appealed to people to use energy-efficient (star-rated) appliances and to consume electricity judiciously by shifting certain non-important load to non-peak hours.

Transmission and distribution lines not cooling down due to the summer heat, power consumption rising in an area with passage of time beyond the original estimate and power theft in unauthorized colonies contribute to outages, said an executive with a power company, who asked not to be identified.

Delhi Transco Ltd said that it was capable of meeting demand up to 9,000 megawatts but was finding it difficult to expand the network and carry out routine maintenance because “distribution companies” were “not paying the legitimate dues”.

“The Reliance (Reliance Infrastructure Ltd) owned distribution companies BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd and BSES Yamuna Power Ltd owe more than Rs.2,000 crore to Delhi Transco Ltd and have not been paying despite the directions of Supreme Court,” Delhi Transco Ltd said.

The two utilities supply electricity to about 3.5 million residential, institutional and business consumers in Delhi.

A spokesperson for BSES said the company was under huge financial stress due to non-liquidation of regulatory assets—power supply costs that are not yet passed on to consumers—estimated to be more than Rs.16,000 crore as on 31 March.

“As compared to this, dues payable by BSES to Delhi Transco Ltd are around Rs.2,000 crore. We are awaiting the Supreme Court judgement, which will clear the path for recovery/liquidation of regulatory assets. BSES discoms are also making concerted efforts to address the situation and clear pending dues in a just and equitable manner,” said the person.

Power distribution companies are under severe stress as their cost of electricity purchase has gone up three-fold since 2002, but retail tariff has moved up only by around 90% during the period. A distribution firm spends around 85% of all its expenses for buying power.

Experts said the expected turnaround of power distribution companies on account of their debt restructuring under the Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) will benefit transmission and generation companies as well.

Revival of the distribution firms is key to the overall health of the power sector, said Kalpana Jain, senior director, Deloitte in India.

The central government is now working on a plan to let state governments restructure the debt of private distribution companies too.

Reliance Group companies have sued HT Media Ltd, Mint’s publisher, and nine others in the Bombay high court over a 2 October 2014 front-page story that they have disputed. HT Media is contesting the case.

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