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Power sector – the most misunderstood sector in J&K

Date:

Jagmohan Sharma

A few days back I heard with awe one of the seasoned politicians of J&K speak about the power sector in the UT especially when he “opined” that since the electricity is generated from the waters of J&K rivers as such the electricity should be made free to the consumers of the UT, literally. Never mind if the AT&C losses in J&K are already in the range of 60% plus & the UT Govt has already taken a loan of Rs.31000 crores for making payments to the power generators over last few years.

This statement is misleading, to say the least.

It is true that the waters flowing down the rivers of J&K are part of its most valuable natural resources & these waters are used for producing electricity.

Presently we have an installed generation capacity of 2009 MW of hydroelectric plants operating in the central sector while the installed capacity of hydroelectric generating plants in the UT sector is 1211 MW. Thus, the total installed generating capacity of all the power houses in J&K is around 3220 MW.

It has been estimated that the total generation capacity from the waters of Chenab River is around 17000 MW out of which 2009 MW is already under operation. Besides this the power houses like Kiru, Kwar, Rattle, Pakkal-Dul shall be having a combined installed capacity of around 3000 MW. These power houses are likely to come up in next 3 to 4 years' time.

Whatever power generation capacities could be built on Jhelum & Sindh rivers have already been built & nothing substantial is expected to add to this in near future.

It may be emphasised that the capacities mentioned above are installed capacities, that is the maximum generation that can be expected from these power houses when the water discharge in their feeding rivers is at its maximum. During the winter months the water discharge in these rivers drops down to nearly to 1/3rd thus impacting the generating capacities of the power houses installed on these rivers. Thus, the installed capacity of the power houses in J&K though is 3220 MW but the real generation could be something like 1100 MW average during the winters. The engineers use different methods of maximising generation during peak hours by limiting generation during non-peak hours, but that is a discussion for some other day.

It is important to understand the following power data of J&K for the last financial year, that is 2022 – 23.

The peak load in province during summers was around 1502 MW, while in Valley it was 1863 MW. Thus, the peak load demand for J&K during the summers was approximately 3365 MW.

Similarly, the peak load in Jammu during winters was around 1312 MW, while in Kashmir Valley it was 1897 MW. Thus, the peak load demand for J&K during the winter was around 3209 MW.

Let's now compare the load requirement of J&K with the availability of generation from the power stations in J&K during summers as well as winter. The total generation available during summers from all the power houses installed in J&K was around 3220 MW (demand 3365 MW), while during winters it was around 1100 MW (demand 3209 MW). The demand figures change based on so many parameters viz the time of the day, holidays, festivals & so on, but the present figures give us a fairly good idea about where we stand.

As is evident from above figures, even if all the generation available from the local rivers were to be used for feeding power to the consumers of J&K there would still be a deficit of around 145 MW during the summers, while as during winters it would be around 2109 MW when the water in the rivers normally drops down to 1/3rd of their summer discharge. It may be noted once again that these figures keep on changing based on several parameters as mentioned in above para.

Having put things about installed generation capacity & requirement of power in J&K into perspective I would like to delve upon the hype that is sought to be created regarding “our own natural resource ie water” & “free tag” sought to be associated with it by vested interests to play on the minds of the gullible citizens.

As already mentioned, water is our natural resource & we certainly have a right to it. But what is this natural resource worth if it's not gainfully exploited for the benefit of the people. Unexploited water is surely free, but not once it is exploited to generate electricity.

Needless to say, it is the unexploited “free water” that needs to be damed,  power house installed & arrangements made for evacuation of power to the consumers. This is a costly affair!

Not that this is some very “special & intelligent” statement, but what do you do when someone tries to sell the idea that since we have water as our natural resource & as such, we have a right to free power in the UT. Does this demand come from the financially poor sections of the society? No, it doesn't! It comes from those who have multiple air conditioners & other electrical gadgets in their palatial houses & are very vocal too.

Let's move to the specifics with an example.

The 624 MW (installed capacity) Kiru project is being constructed on the Chenab basin at a cost of roughly Rs.5000 crores. It's being constructed by a joint venture company (named CVPPPL) in which the J&K Power Development Corporation & NHPC are the shareholders. Now, where does the JV company get its money from? It must have put in some seed money provided by the UT & the MoP, Govt of , but 90% of the funds must have come as loans from the national & lenders & several Indian banks for completion of the project in a specified time frame with a clear understanding of how the funds would be returned along with interest. Now, can the company assigned the task of constructing the project & running & maintaining it for a specified period supply free power to the consumers without getting liquidated? Which of the entrepreneurs/project-developers would afford to or would be interested to invest Rs.5000 crores in power project & supply the commodity free of cost. Electricity is a commodity!!

Yes, there is a provision in the electricity act of 2003 that subsidy can be provided to some section of consumers of the society based upon their financial conditions as well as for attracting industries etc but the “government shall pay the amount to compensate the person affected by the grant of subsidy (para 29).”

It is also true that even in several developed countries many of the services are cross subsidised. They have the advantage of having other resources to pay for the subsidised services. Most of the subsidies are provided by them in food grains/items & they can afford it. Even the Govt. of India provides such subsidies. However, for a UT like J&K what are the other revenue/capital generating resources from which the power transmission & distribution companies can be compensated for providing free power to consumers across the board? I am afraid none.

Coming back to the deficit in power availability faced by J&K, during summers & winters, where do the J&K distribution utilities get electricity from to feed the consumers?

They get electricity from power generators with whom the power purchasers have entered into long term agreements for supply of power.  These generators may belong to J&K Power Development Corporation (viz Baghliar, LJHP, Upper Sindh, Cheneni etc) as well power generators spread all across the country. The base power demand in J&K is met from these sources, some of which could be located as far as Bihar, Bengal, Andhra Pradesh & even Tamilnadu, depending upon the location of the generators with whom agreements have been executed. One Nation, One Grid, One Frequency has made it possible.

Additional power required, over & above the base load is met from the spare electricity available in the grid, as well as by requesting the MoP (under emergency conditions) to allocate some supply from their reserved quota. Some incremental difference in demand & supply is also met from the electricity exchange, especially if the prices are low. Last year the cost of per unit of power from electricity exchange reached Rs.20/- per unit. At this stage the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) had to intervene to put a cap of Rs.12/- per unit.

The power purchasers in J&K have also entered into barter system with some of the power utilities of other states. J&K supplies power to them when we are surplus & we supply it to them in their time of need. The JKPDCL power generators too sell power to utilities outside the UT whenever surplus situation occurs.

The State Load Despatch Centre/SubLDC, at Gladni (Jammu) & Bemina (Srinagar) manage power from different sources in such a manner that the demand is generally met. This is a 24×7 activity.

However, SLDC/SubLDC is compelled to go in for load shedding in the UT if the load in J&K increases substantially & power is not available in the grid or is available at exorbitant prices. The funds available with J&K for purchase of power is also an important factor that determines purchase of power for the consumers. The biggest bottleneck is the fact that the revenue realised from the electricity consumers is less than 40% of the amount spent by the government on purchase of power from the generators all across the country as well as those belonging to JKPDCL.

Under the circumstances, the idea that because we are utilising our own resources for generating electricity & as such electricity should be free is ill founded. We generate power from our resources by taming the rivers & that has a huge cost. We purchase power from power generators inside the UT (central+UT sector) & outside to meet our demand & that has a price too. We are required to wheel power to the consumers over high voltage & low-tension power networks. That too has a price. We are required to automate our systems to meet the challenges of managing the complex grid where wind & solar power generation has added to complexities of grid management. Automation too has a cost.

Under the circumstances, how can electricity be free. Taking care of poor & downtrodden people is a different matter, but electricity cannot be free across the board. Sooner we realise it the better. Otherwise, we may be staring into a dark, electricity-less future. Choice is ours; that of the residents of J&K.

 

[Jagmohan Sharma is former ED (POWERGRID), CEO (APL), Chairman (JPDCL)]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northlines
Northlines
The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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