Former Union Energy Secretary E.A.S. Sarma has blamed ill-conceived policies by successive governments for the current power crisis and felt that it will need four to five years to set it right.

In a letter to Chief Minister K. Rosaiah recently, Mr. Sarma, who is the convener of Forum for Better Visakha, stated that the present crisis was largely a man-made one, compounded by the successive governments during the last decade. There had been lack of foresight and planning, coupled with several ill-conceived strategies. In the power sector, if a mistake was made at a given point of time, it would take four to five years to correct it, he stated.

Enclosing a copy of his lecture conducted by the Institution of Engineers a couple of months ago, he said on Wednesday, scheduled and unscheduled power cuts had become a rule more than an exception. Most cities were without power for more than six to seven hours during the day.

The farmers for whom the State Government had given several assurances in the past were the most critically affected, as the power cuts in rural areas were in excess of eight to 10 hours. Similarly, industrial establishments, especially the continuous processing units, were forced to shut down operations leading to unemployment and losses.

He suggested constitution of a monitoring mechanism at the State level to liaise with the Ministry of Coal to build sufficient coal stocks at the thermal power station yards to ensure that the coal-based power generation capacity in the State was operated at high levels of plant availability and plant load factor.

Regulating the water releases in all the major hydro plants in line with the anticipated demand during the next four to five months according to a contingency plan that projects a pessimistic scenario was another suggestion. The demand for electricity will progressively go up during April, May, June and possibly July.

There is substantial captive generation capacity both within and outside A.P. For example, Visakhapatnam Steel Plant has about 250MW of generation capacity and it has been operating at less than 200 MW. Similarly, there are many large industrial establishments that have captive capacities but draw power from the grid. If the State could offer incentives to industry in AP and buy this power, it would help a great deal, the former IAS officer said.

He wanted imposition of peak-time restrictions throughout the State, especially on unproductive use of power (avoidable illumination, conspicuous consumption by hotels and others, excessive air-conditioning, refrigeration etc.) In Visakhapatnam, for example, the beach road is excessively illuminated throughout the night. During certain hours at night, the consumption could be reduced, he said.