‘Thrust on thermal power cannot be termed wise’

Though the power sector had not expected much of the Union government’s 2014-2015 interim budget, the absence of indications for a change of policy towards the sector is disheartening, electricity finance expert Dr. Shina has said.

In a statement on the power sector in the budget, Dr. Shina said Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had failed to address the real and immediate problems of the sector.

Mr. Chidambaram highlighted the doubling of the country’s power capacity from 112,700 MW to 234,600 MW in 10 years, disregarding the fact that much more was needed considering India’s industrial growth during the decade.

Even now power shortage was a main bottleneck in industrial growth, she said. Though there was mention of 50,000 MW additional capacity under construction in the thermal and hydel sectors, the budget failed to take a serious note of the slow progress towards realisation of this additional capacity.

The thrust in the budget was for thermal power since most of the new projects under construction were in that sector. The target for the 12th Plan was more than 88,000 MW of which 60,000-65,000 MW was thermal, mostly from private sector. Since coal supply was fast depleting, and there was huge hydel potential in the country, this policy could not be regarded wise, she said.

Dr. Shina said that the lack of a single window clearance and coordination between Central agencies hampered the tapping of the enormous hydel potential of the country. An environment preservation fund to compensate environmental damages due to hydel projects was a long-standing demand of the sector. Without finding solutions to the stalemate in hydel power development, the country would not be able to strive for energy self-sufficiency, Dr. Shina said.

However, efforts made towards augmenting solar power generation were welcome. Announcement in the Budget on four mega solar power projects each, with a capacity of over 500 MW, was encouraging.

The results of the Delhi election, in which power tariff was a main issue, was to be taken as an indication of the public opinion on power sector. Providing budget support for the power sector was the need of the hour, she said.

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