July 31: As fingers are being pointed at Uttar Pradesh for the northern grid’s collapse on back-to-back days, state officials have suggested the Akhilesh Yadav government’s decision to scrap its predecessor’s policy of sourcing power from multiple points may be to blame.
Officially, no single state has been identified as the culprit. But sources said Union power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde wrote to the Prime Minister yesterday complaining that Uttar Pradesh had been habitually overdrawing from the northern grid.
Today’s collapse of three grids was caused by several states overdrawing, in the north and the east. But officials said Uttar Pradesh was attracting most of the blame because Akhilesh had done away with the arrangement of parallel sources of power, started by Mayawati, though the state’s demand and generation capacity were severely mismatched.
When Mayawati was chief minister, her government would buy additional power from Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and the western grid through the Power Trading Corporation. This meant the northern grid was not over-burdened.
Power regulator CERC today sent a notice to the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation’s chief engineer to appear before it on August 14 and explain the state’s repeated overdrawing of power from the northern grid.
Uttar Pradesh has denied reports blaming it for the northern grid failure and claiming Lucknow was overdrawing 26 million units of power from the grid every day.
The reports also said Haryana had been overdrawing 13 million units and Punjab 5.2 million units every day.
Rajasthan power minister Jitendra Singh, asked by a reporter whether Jaipur had not been warned “27 times” by the CERC for overdrawing power in the past few months, did not deny the allegation. However, he said, Rajasthan had not been warned for yesterday’s blackout.
Uttar Pradesh power department officials blamed political pressure and the Samajwadi Party government’s populist measures for the increase in the state’s demand for power, leading to chronic overdrawal from the northern grid.
Senior state power official Sailendra Dubey, the secretary-general of the All India Power Engineers Federation, said political leaders frequently intervened in power distribution on behalf of their favoured turfs.
“At least 250 small district and block towns that deserve just eight hours of power supply under the power department’s norms are being provided 15 hours of supply under pressure from the state’s ruling party leaders,” a power department source said.
The Etawah, Mainpuri, Rampur and Kannauj districts — home turfs of senior leaders such as Mulayam Singh Yadav and Azam Khan — have been declared free from power cuts, putting extra pressure on the state power corporation.
A state power official said Mayawati had built her alternative sources after the state received a CERC notice in 2010 relating to overdrawals.
“Her decision to buy power from the market through the Power Trading Corporation eased the situation,” the official said.
Akhilesh, after assuming office, had criticised Mayawati for buying power at Rs 13 per unit from the corporation, saying this had burdened the state with a debt of over 25,000 crore.
The new chief minister initially tried to reduce the power demand by imposing curbs. He asked shops to down shutters by 7pm, triggering a protest. His efforts to ban the use of air-conditioners during peak hours too failed.
Late last night, Akhilesh removed the chairperson and managing director of the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation, Avanish Awasthi, and appointed A.P. Mishra, an officer from the engineering cadre, in his place. Sources said this was a “knee-jerk” reaction and would not help solve the crisis.
Power department sources said the state’s demand had touched 10,500-11,000MW whereas the available power was 7,500-8,500MW. Many of the state’s power plants face a coal shortage. Bajaj Energy, a power producer, has asked the Uttar Pradesh government’s permission to import coal.
In Delhi, Union power minister Shinde told reporters: “We are trying to identify the reasons for it (the blackout). States are drawing more than the limit. I have asked for strict punishment for overdrawing power.”
He added: “This morning, I was told (by officials) that about 3,000MW extra power has been overdrawn from the eastern grid. We have given the direction to either stop it (overdrawal) or take action against them.”