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Mamata rubs it in: ‘My State is power-surplus even in peak summer’

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Perhaps to add insult to the injury of the Union Government, which is struggling to fix the power generation, distribution and transmission in the capital and other parts of north India, West Bengal Chief Minister has today boasted of the power surplus situation in her State.

“During the present scorching summer heat, many, many parts of the country continue to suffer for long stretches of ‘loadshedding’. But in Bengal, ‘loadshedding’ is now a forgotten term. Due to rapid improvement in of our State power sector, people of Bengal are now getting 24×7 power supply. Bengal now is in a position to provide power on demand. We have introduced banking of power to suitably utilize the surplus power after our own requirements are fulfilled. We are committed to the people of Bengal and do our best for them,” the Bengal wrote on her page.

West Bengal has been recording surplus power since June 2013. West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL), had surplus power of about 10% last year. This owed, to a great extent, to industrial demand (which accounts for 40% of the State’s power consumption) not rising in 2012. While the demand of domestic consumers grew 19% in 2012-13, demand from the industrial sector increased a mere 4%.

In the previous two financial years, consumption by the industrial sector had registered 10-12% growth a year.

The West Bengal Government’s draft 12th five-year Plan had projected a peak demand of 7,649 mW in 2012-13, against the availability projection of 7,000 mW. 2,500 mW of capacity was expected to be commissioned in the State by different power utilities, in the following few years. Capacity addition plans included 2 WBPDCL units of 500 mW each at Sagardighi, Durgapur Projects’ 250 mW and 2 Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation units of 300 mW each.

The capacity addition would not help the State if the excess power is sold to power exchanges. Unless there is a surge in industrial demand, rise in domestic consumption would not be able to consume the additional capacity.

The nation has been hit hard by the industrial slowdown. Bengal is no exception and the lack of industrial demand has played a role in the power surplus situation. But that isn’t the only reason. The excess power Bengal supplied to other States during the winter has also started coming back to it during the peak demand months, leaving unanswered the burning question of why the State could afford to export as much as 15% of its total power output during the winter in the first place.

To its credit, the West Bengal government decided in January to allot an additional 98 acre land and provide coal linkage with riders to the National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC’s) proposed 1,600 mW plant, clearing 2 major hurdles for the project. This would help remove uncertainty over implementation of the proposed at Katwa in Burdwan district.

The NTPC had around 500 acre of land, which was acquired by the Left Front Government. An additional 98 acre from government-held land was provided for the purpose so that there was no pressure on land owners.

In February, the WBSEDCL announced a tariff cut of 5-10 p per unit in year 2014-15, as it is expected to register a surplus of Rs 1,500 crore this year.

Malda did strike a jarring note to the Bengal ‘success’ story. In mid-April, fed up with frequent power-cuts that heavily affected agriculture, hundreds of farmers from 10 villages of Habibpur block demonstrated in front of the district office of the WBSEDCL. Putting up saplings on the table, the farmers gheraoed the divisional manager of the WBSEDCL in his office.

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Surajit Dasgupta
Surajit Dasgupta
Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sirf News Surajit Dasgupta has been a science correspondent in The Statesman, senior editor in The Pioneer, special correspondent in Money Life, the first national affairs editor of Swarajya, executive editor of Hindusthan Samachar and desk head of MyNation

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