Assam electricity controversy
As Assam grapples with severe power cuts amid scorching heatwave conditions, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has stated that there have been no instances of load shedding exceeding 30 minutes. The state’s residents, however, have been grappling with frequent power outages and higher electricity tariffs, making their lives unbearable as the mercury rises.
The power situation has prompted several citizens to take to the streets in protest against these interruptions in their daily lives. Chief Minister Sarma has acknowledged the challenges and stated that the power supply situation is being closely monitored. He explained that the increased power demand, with a need for 2,500 Megawatts (MW) compared to the previous requirement of 1,800 MW, has strained the system.
Sarma emphasized that the state currently does not possess the necessary electricity reserves, and procuring additional power would result in a tariff increase of Re. 1. To address this issue in the long term, the state government has entered into agreements with various companies to augment the MW capacity in the coming year, ensuring a more consistent power supply.
The Chief Minister stressed that while there have been power cuts, they have not exceeded 5-10 hours anywhere in the state. He also noted that achieving a 24/7 power supply would necessitate further tariff adjustments. The recent surge in temperatures has made life difficult for Assam’s residents, and the persistent power cuts have exacerbated their discomfort. Concerns have been raised about the lack of continuous electricity supply despite the tariff hikes.
Assam finds itself in the throes of a severe power shortage, despite official claims to the contrary. The Energy Minister’s assertion of uninterrupted power supply in the state contrasts starkly with the reality on the ground. Currently, Assam‘s power generation capacity hovers at a mere 250 MW, forcing it to procure a staggering 2,000-2,100 MW of electricity daily from neighboring states to meet the surging demand aggravated by a scorching heat wave.
This heat wave has necessitated the daily procurement of additional electricity from neighboring states, far surpassing the usual requirement of 1,400-1,500 MW. The heightened dependence on imports, however, does not come without its consequences. The state government now faces fines for abrupt spikes in electricity purchases. Consequently, power cuts have become a regular occurrence in certain areas of Assam, despite the Minister’s assurances to the contrary.
The power crisis in Assam stems from various contributing factors, including deficient rainfall and technical hiccups that have hamstrung the generation capacity of key projects. Currently, Assam’s power generation is restricted to a mere 250 MW, a far cry from the 385 MW potential hindered by these issues. Yet, the daily demand for electricity continues to escalate, exacerbated by the relentless heat wave, now estimated at 2,300-2,500 MW.
In a bid to bridge this yawning demand-supply gap, the power department has been compelled to purchase electricity at exorbitant rates from neighboring states such as Manipur, Tripura, and NEEPCO. However, the limited capacity for imported electricity poses a challenge, as exceeding the assigned limits incurs penalties of Rs. 8-9 per unit.
Additionally, Assam grapples with the issue of unfinished power projects that have the potential to contribute hundreds of additional megawatts to the state’s power supply. Projects like the Silchar Power Project (30 MW), Margherita Thermal Project (660 MW), and the procurement of two projects near Barapani (14 MW) languish in limbo. Instead of prioritizing these endeavors, the emphasis has been on procuring electricity from external sources, casting a shadow over the rationale behind this decision.
The incomplete Namrup Replacement Project (100 MW) and Lakua Replacement Project (70 MW) further exacerbate the electricity shortage in the state. Consequently, there are growing concerns about the sustainability of Assam’s power supply amid the unrelenting surge in electricity demand. Urgent action is imperative to address these incomplete projects and alleviate the persisting power shortage in Assam. With the heat wave showing no signs of abating and electricity demand continuing to rise, resolving this power crisis stands as a critical concern for the state.