Calcutta, April 24: Bengal has lost the claim to its biggest bragging point in recent times: of being a power-surplus state.
Power minister Mrinal Banerjee today admitted that the electricity generated by the state was way below its own demand.
Only a couple of years ago, Bengal used to sell surplus power to other states during off-peak hours.
There would be no respite from power cuts till July, said Banerjee.
The demand has gone up by 460 mw over 2006, but the generation has remained the same over the past six years.
“We wanted to buy power at Rs 5 to Rs 7 per unit, but other states did not agree to sell. The power crisis will continue until our additional units at Bakreswar, Sagardighi and Damodar Projects Ltd are commissioned,” the minister said at Writers’ Buildings.
The first 225-mw unit at the Purulia hydel project is expected to start generation by the third week of May. The situation will slightly improve then.
The minister tried to draw consolation from the situation in other states. “We have power cuts ranging from 15 minutes to an hour. Delhi and parts of Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have power cuts for 12-14 hours,” he said.
Bengal’s power crisis is also a result of the Pokhran nuclear tests, according to the minister. The disbursement of the Japan Bank for International Co-operation loan for the Bakreswar and Purulia projects was deferred by two years as the India-Japan relations got strained in its wake, he said.
Power sources said the last time there was capacity addition was when the third Bakreswar unit was installed in 2001.
Chinese company Dong Fang is building a 300-mw unit at Sagardighi. The 210-mw Bakreswar plant and a 250-mw one at Santaldih are being built by Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd.
A power department official said all three projects faced problems over supply of equipment. Land acquisition for Sagardighi, a greenfield project, was time consuming.