SRINAGAR: It is a luminous sight, all households lit up round the clock by uninterrupted power supply even in winter, but it is coming at a huge cost to the state exchequer. The expenses will only keep growing until the infrastructure in place is upgraded and consumers change their habits of electricity use.
The J&K Power Development Department (PDD) has to pay Rs 6,000 crore a year to buy the amount of energy required to light up households in the state. However, it generates revenues of only Rs 2,200 crore. The rest has to be managed by mobilising other resources of the state. Even this Rs 2,200 crore is an estimate and not what the department realises in actual.
“We lose money due to transmission and pilferage losses, which amount to more than 50 percent of the energy that is supplied,” Chief Engineer at Electric Maintenance wing of PPD Kashmir, Hashmat Qazi, told Kashmir Reader.
“This is the most unfortunate reality for us,” he added. “We are pumping money into certain losses, money that could be utilised somewhere else for development, which will not only ease life but also boost the state’s economy.”
The 3000 crore amounts to more than 3 percent of state’s 87000-crore annual budget, the third biggest burden on the state exchequer after salaries and pensions.
It could have been used to generate more than 300 MWs of hydropower, or to establish an AIIMS-type hospital.
Is anything being done to move away from this situation that is making Kashmiris poorer? At present, if the PDD has to meet what it costs to supplypower, the way is to hike the tariff by multiple times, which is impossible.
According to Hashmat, the department is replacing the existing wiring with more energy-efficient cables. He said this will end to a large extent the transmission losses. The department is also doing metering in the 58 percent unmetered areas where it supplies energy, putting in place ‘smart meters’, he said.
At the departmental level, the PDD is strengthening its grid capacity, which will be able to supply what is required on the ground. During winters, the department’s grid capacity is less than what is required. Hashmat said the department is working on many other projects, which will suffice the needs of supply.
“If we are able to generate what is supplied to households, if each unit of energy supplied is accounted for, and if grid capacity projects get complete on time, we will not only be able to save losses but also to bring down the power tariff,” he added.