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Minister forecasts dark days

Calcutta, Aug. 5: Power cuts will continue across the state in the next few days.

Addressing a news conference here today, power minister Mrinal Banerjee said: “There will be a shortage of 300-400 MW today. The trend will continue for another few days. We are trying to improve the situation as early as possible.”

Power cuts have become a regular feature in areas under the West Bengal State Electricity Board. Areas fed by the CESC, too, experienced severe power cuts this evening following a drastic cut in supply to its grid from the state electric board system. A CESC spokesman said the shortfall shot up to 165 MW in the peak hour.

The situation was worse in the districts. The deficit exceeded Banerjee’s prediction when it rose to 450 MW in the evening. Power cuts lasted between five and six hours.

The minister admitted that in the last month, there had been power cuts in areas adjoining Calcutta as well as the districts. He cited four reasons for the shortfall — generation is low at National Thermal Power Corporation’s Farakka plant, introduction of availability-based tariff regime, wet coal because of monsoon and the annual shutdown of the Kolaghat and Bakreswar units for maintenance.

Earlier, Banerjee said, Bengal was able to draw power from the eastern grid if there was a shortfall in the state’s own generation. But under the availability-based tariff regime, the state cannot suddenly draw power from others. It has to submit its demand with the eastern regional grid and then draw that amount. A state is penalised financially if it either draws less or more.

The power situation worsened yesterday when the ash pond near the Kolaghat Thermal Power Station overflowed and entered adjoining villages.

Banerjee said generation was restricted in all the five units of plant so that the ash produced was low.

“Kolaghat has informed me that three units have started generating in full capacity. The fourth unit is expected to return to normality today or by tomorrow,” the power minister said.

Banerjee today announced the introduction of an electronic clearing service for domestic consumers in the Bidhannagar distribution division-I of the state electricity board. The board has tied up with Punjab National Bank for the service.

The scheme provides the consumer an option to pay the monthly electricity bill through a bank account. The account will be debited for an equivalent amount on the due date and the debit entry will be incorporated in the consumer’s passbook or statement of accounts.

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