Sunday, February 24, 2008

Powerless in the land of powerful

Time the well heeled were made to feel the heat this summer

This summer, your tolerance to bear excruciating heat will go down by a notch. Climatologists would ramble on tonnage of greenhouse gases that gets emitted into atmosphere and politicians and part-time environmentalists would argue endlessly on brightly lit television sets terrible conspiracy hatched by the Western world in causing global warming. But beyond the meteorological department’s predictions, the torrid summer that is on the doorsteps also has a terrible human dimension. That dimension is related to the bombshell of terrible energy crisis that India almost deliberately sits on.

Despite claims of a bright future and flowing wattage from Indo-US nuclear deal, presently India faces almost 15% shortage during peak demand. With an installed capacity of 128,000 MW almost all the states in India face power deficit. All ‘planned’ moves to increase installed capacity through different five-year-plans have simply failed to take off in India. The IX Plan could add only 47% of the targeted goal while during VIII Plan the achievement was only 54%. During the much hyped 8% economic growth targeting X Plan the achievement has been only 58% till December, 2006. The problem then doesn’t start or end here. The problems plaguing Indian power sector are numerous and endless. On power generation front tardy administrative set-up has ensured delays and cost over-runs. Hydro-electricity generation remains plagued by the environmental protests and even in the functioning projects severe deforestation in the catchment areas have caused silting reservoirs. It is estimated that if corrective actions are not initiated at the earliest hydro-power stations could witness wattage reduction by almost 20% in next 15 years. In thermal power projects, India’s myopic coal policy has ensured that Coal based methane project doesn’t walk out of the gestation period. Even otherwise, despite proven reserves of 80 billion tonnes of coal, bottlenecks of nationalisation, of the 1970s have made coal production perilous in this country. It must be recalled here that coal remains critical to India’s power sector as almost 61% of installed capacity depends on it. The other quotient of power generation, that is, natural gas also has been deficient in India. With almost all the gas-based plants running at close to 60% of their capacity, India urgently needs to correct the situation. With such shortage, the Ministry of Power’s claims of increasing natural gas’s contribution in power generation from 10% to 25% by 2012 AD remains in the realm of fantasy. The nuclear sector being in international political domain, the projections of 20,000 MW by 2020 seems extremely unlikely to be attained.

Another facet that requires urgent attention is distribution. Bureaucratised and politicised State Electricity boards have been emasculated to deal with pilferage, which euphemistically is known as Transmission and Distribution (T&D) loss. India loses close to $12.5 billion due to T&D losses. In this light (sorry, darkness), my prescription is simple. Brace up to face the heat, pray for early rains and, if possible, pray a virus infects generators of only the high and mighty. After all, the glitterati should also be made to feel the heat.


No comments:

Post a Comment