The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rain gods blamed for power shortage

Guwahati, April 5: If the fan has stopped whirring and darkness has enveloped your house, do not blame the Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB).

The fault, the ASEB would have everyone believe, lies with the inefficiency of the rain gods.

As Assam reeled under the impact of an electricity-less early summer, the state’s sole power distributor came up with an explanation that may just raise the heat in the corridors of power. It said the state was being too dependent on hydel projects and, consequently, letting its power-generation capacity be dictated by the amount of rain received during a particular season.

Ironically, the observation by A.K. Sachan, managing director of the Lower and Central Assam Electricity Distribution Company Ltd, came a day before chief minister Tarun Gogoi is scheduled to dedicate yet another hydel project — the 100-MW Karbi Langpi unit — to the people.

Given the situation, Assam has been buying power generated outside the state. However, it still faces a shortfall of 150 MW to 200 MW. The state’s requirement during peak hours is 750 MW, which increases to 800 MW in summer. Around 500 MW is required during regular hours.

“The situation can improve only if we get a good amount of rain,” Sachan told the media.

“The ideal way to deal with the situation is to increase dependence on thermal and less on hydel power. But it is the opposite in Assam, which is leading to long and frequent power cuts,” he said.

The managing director had served in the ministry of power for eight years and was also part of the team that drafted the National Electricity Policy. Of the 621-MW allocation of power from the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (Neepco), the state gets 300 MW in the evening when there is enough water, he said.

Only two units of the 405-MW Ranganadi hydroelectric project are running for three hours daily. The 290-MW Kathalguri thermal power project, facing a gas shortage, is generating between 200-220 MW.

Rainfall data provided by the meteorological department revealed that Assam received only 24 mm rainfall in March, when normal rainfall should have been 71.7 mm.

The Centre last year allocated an additional 50 MW on a request made by the government. Supply continued till March 15. “But this additional power was withdrawn on March 16,” Sachan said.

He added that it was difficult to get additional power now as the entire country was facing a power shortage.

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