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State grapples with power cuts

Shillong, Feb. 10: Meghalaya, the “abode of clouds,” is grappling for solutions in this dry winter spell to alleviate the citizens’ sufferings caused by power shutdowns.

The grim scenario follows a fall in supply at a time the dues owed to distribution companies run to nearly Rs 450 crore.

Meghalaya power minister Clement Marak said the state would go for a “power exchange” from the 726MW combined cycle plant of the ONGC-Tripura Power Corporation (OTPC) at Palatana.

For the current month, the average demand is nearly 214MW while the supply is around 171MW, thereby giving rise to a shortfall of 43MW.

The 171MW includes the state’s own generation of 46MW, northeastern share of 38MW and eastern region share of 37MW.

For March, the average power availability is estimated to be around 163MW while the average demand will be around 207MW, implying a deficit of 44MW.

“We have decided that we will be going for power exchange from Palatana within the next two weeks in order to meet the demand. Initially, we planned to embark on the power exchange for a period of two months. However, the time period can be extended depending on the situation,” Marak said. As of now, the state gets nearly 38MW from the Palatana plant as its share.

Marak said power regulation by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) of nearly 10MW, shutdown of the Kopili by the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (Neepco) of around 15MW, power regulation of 47MW by Neepco, an unsteady generation by Palatana and low water level in the state’s own reservoir are the reasons behind the shortfall.

The Umiam hydroelectric project, with an installed capacity of 185MW, is currently generating a mere 40MW while the 126MW Myntdu-Leshka hydroelectric project, which is a run-of-the-river (ROR) project, is generating only around 6MW, Marak said.

The demand for power is above 600MW whereas the installed capacity in the state has gone up to around 310MW.

Marak said a bank loan would be availed of to clear the Rs 449.93 crore dues owed to various power distribution companies.

To Neepco alone, the state owes a staggering Rs 358.89 crore while Powergrid has to be paid Rs 29.55 crore. The dues owed to NHPC and the National Thermal Power Corporation are Rs 19.67 crore and Rs 15.49 crore respectively.

“The loan would be availed of in installments to clear all pending dues,” Marak said. A plan is afoot to set up a 120MW thermal power plant near the coal mining areas bordering West Khasi Hills and East Garo Hills, he added.

As many of the industrial plants and government offices have been failing to pay power dues to the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Ltd, Marak said he would take stock of the situation so that the dues are realised.

The current powercut timings are also likely to be altered keeping in mind impending school and college examinations.

As the current power projects are hydel ones, the government can only hope for an early onset of the rainy season in what is famously referred to as the wettest place on earth.