Punjab is facing an extreme shortage of electricity just when the temperatures are rising and paddy plantation is at its peak. Even the agricultural sector isn’t getting its promised eight hours of power supply and on top of it, PSPCL imposed a two-day mandatory cut on high-consumption industries to divert power for crops and the domestic sector. The timings of government offices have been reduced to 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and they can’t use air conditioners too due to the shortage of electricity. These strict regulations helped in bringing down the demand to 12.600 MW but the downside included expensive labour having to sit idle.
The demand for power has touched 14,225 MW but only 12,800 MW can be supplied and this gap of 1,425 MW has led to power cuts lasting up to 14 hours in households. Farmers, domestic consumers, and industrialists are now complaining how this is the last thing they wanted considering they have already suffered due to the pandemic.
Every year Punjab records an increase in demand by about 500 MW and in 2020, it was 13,150 MW. PSPCL didn’t predict the demand of 14,500 MW, thus leading to a shortage. The state government decided to shut down two units of thermal plant in Ropar and a thermal plant in Bathinda with a combined capacity of 880 MW and no alternatives have been approved. A private power unit, the TSPL Power Plant at Talwandi Sabo which supplied 660MW has been shut since March 8 because of faulty Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).
On top of it all, PSPCL is facing a shortage of funds. The government owes it Rs 5,000 crore on account of agriculture subsidy while the government offices owe Rs 2,000 crore to the PSPCL. Even though during a recent power review meeting, CM Amrinder Singh directed the department of finance to release Rs 500 crore for purchasing power, the state’s transmission capacity is only 13,000 MW and the Punjab State Transmission Corporation Limited (PSTCL) can be blamed for not upgrading the capacity of 400/220 KV transmission lines and ICTs.
The current government lacks proper planning. The government has not been appointing a regular CMD of PSTCL since 2010. The CMD of PSPCL holds the charge of other offices like excise and taxation and is thus, overburdened. Also, dependence on private power plants has significantly increased.
According to PSPCL’s CMD A Venu Prasad, the failure of the Talwandi Sabo power plant, the hailstorm between June 10 and 15, and the diminishing water level can be attributed to the power shortage.
Author: Vanshika Jain