“By putting off a cost reflective tariff and extending subsidies, we may seem to help the consumer, but what we are actually doing is bleeding the State electricity boards and eventually burdening the consumer with surcharge after the losses become untenable,” said an official of the power department explaining why reforms in the power sector must begin with a realistic power tariff, curtailing losses and replacing short-term sops with long-term schemes.
Dissecting the causes for the grid collapse that left the city powerless on Monday and Tuesday, officials of the power distribution companies as well as the government’s power department were unanimous that the State electricity boards have been pushed to withdraw spending on system up-gradation because of their poor financial condition.
“The fact that some States were rampantly overdrawing from the grid that led to the collapse is part of the reason, the transmission and distribution systems in the country are screaming for an overhaul and how do you strengthen the system unless you have the money?” questioned the official. “The State electricity boards as on date have a debt of Rs. 3 lakh crore,” he added.
In Delhi alone, the three discoms had been demanding a hike in power tariffs for the past two years, citing heavy outflow on power purchase and system strengthening.
“For sometime the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission decided to not increase the power tariff in the city, eventually when the hike could no longer be put off, because the discoms were in such perilous financial condition, the consumers were slapped with an eight per cent surcharge to pay for the old dues,” the official said.
“Somebody has to pay, either the consumer or the government. Small benefits and subsidies to farmers is one thing, but sops like non cost reflective tariffs based on politically motivated ideas should be discouraged,” the official said.
Distribution system is plagued by losses of more than 30 per cent, which include pilferage, discom official said checking this aspect alone costs money and requires political will.
“There are transformers that are theft proof, but they are expensive. Similarly when we swoop down on theft, there are times when political interference leads to impediments,” said an official of a discom.
Reigning in States that violate grid code is necessary, but equal attention should be paid to the augmenting the capacity of the system. “Today we have a peak generation of 200,000 MW and a peak demand of 125,000 MW, a lot of power is moving across the power lines, it is a complex system and needs a lot of management. We need to invest in the distribution system so that energy security is ensured for all the constituents. The gird needs to be robust,” said Gopal Saxena, the Chief Executive Official of BRPL.
The Delhi Government on Tuesday announced the setting up of a committee to review the investments needed in the sector, asked what are the immediate deficiencies noticed by the department, Shakti Sinha, Principal Secretary Power said: “System strengthening is a continuous process and we will review what has been done and needs to be done. The Chief Minister is very concerned and particular that the grid collapse does not occur again and Delhi’s citizens are insulated from such blackouts. She has taken up the issue with the Centre as well.”