As temperature levels are on the rise in Punjab, where paddy transplantation is also in full swing, the state is experiencing a severe power outage. Even when the farm sector has still not received the guaranteed eight-hour electricity supply residential consumers have now been forced to suffer as a result of extended electricity outages
Furthermore, the state-owned power company PSPCL has enforced a two-day mandatory reduction on high-consumption industries in order to redirect electricity to farms and the household sector There is also a restriction on operating air conditioning units in government offices, as their hours have been reduced from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. due to the shortages
The requirement for electricity has reached 14,225 MW as temperatures have risen and it is the peak season for paddy transplanting. The electricity providers, though, have only been able to deliver 12,800 MW. The 1,425 MW shortfall has resulted in power outages lasting up to 14 hours in the residential sector. Now, businesses have been closed down for two days to guarantee that the farming industry receives adequate supplies and also that the critical window for paddy transplanting is not missed. Farmers and residential customers took to the streets in protest a few days earlier. Industry groups are protesting that this was the last thing they wanted in the midst of a pandemic that has devastated all businesses.
What may have caused the state’s electricity problem?
The shutting down of the government-run thermal plant in Bathinda and two units of yet another government thermal plant in Ropar, with a total capacity of 880 MW, was one of the first actions taken by the current Congress administration in Punjab. There were no backup plans in place to compensate for the loss of output once these factories were closed.
Furthermore, in 2018, the government rejected PSPCL’s intention to build a 100-MW solar facility at the Bathinda thermal plant, which could have been operational within a year. A PSPCL request to upgrade a Bathinda thermal facility to utilize biomass fuel from paddy straw was also denied.
In addition, a unit of the private TSPL Power Plant located in Talwandi Sabo has been shut down since March 8 due to a lack of repairs. The plant generates 660 MW. According to former PSPCL chairman Baldev Singh Sra, the plant had to be closed down due to defective Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).
Why is it that Punjab seems unable to purchase electricity then?
PSPCL is experiencing financial difficulties. The state owes it Rs 5,000 crore for agricultural subsidies, while government institutions owe PSPCL Rs 2,000 crore. During one latest power meeting held, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh instructed the finance department of the state to provide Rs 500 crore towards the usability for power purchase. Furthermore, even if it purchased additional electricity, the state of Punjab has a transmission capacity of 13,000 MW only.
What has the Punjab government said?
A. Venu Prasad, CMD of PSPCL, blamed the power outage on the collapse of the Talwandi Sabo power plant. He also stated that the hailstorm that occurred between June 10 and 15 contributed to the problem and that it took them many days to fix the plant. Because the destruction was so extensive, several areas are still being repaired.
Prasad also stated that the state’s water table was dropping and that more electricity was needed to extract water from the ground bore wells. He stated that the administration was dedicated to delivering electricity and that they had already begun acquiring power from other sources to hold them over till the situation passed. He said that the issue is now under order.