Hashmat Qazi, Chief Engineer of the Electric Maintenance wing of Power Development Department (PDD), talks to Kashmir Reader Correspondent JUNAID NABI BAZAZ about his plans to solve the valley’s power problems.
We are planning 10 years ahead of time, but we get stuck in funding. Our state (J&K) is poor, we don’t have resources.
KASHMIR READER (KR): Where do you locate the Kashmir power problem?
HASHMAT QAZI (HQ): The problem in Kashmir is of shortage in power supply during winters, which last from October to March. The summer is okay, except in some rural areas. During winters the problem occurs because of additional use of power. We fall short of providing the required energy, because Kashmir does not have infrastructure that can augment the power supply. Hence curtailments, and frequently interrupted power supply. How much curtailment we have to make depends on how much the demand is. The more the demand that exceeds our capacity, the more the curtailments occur. Sometimes there are unscheduled curtailments, which exist because the demand is too much. We have peak demand of 2150 MW but supply of only 1250 MW. We make our schedules accordingly, but when it even exceeds the peak demand, there are cuts. We cannot supply beyond our capacity because the system will break down; it may result in blackout for the entire state.
KR: But this problem has been perennial in nature, occurs every year. How do you see the PDD overcoming this once for all?
HQ: That is a very good question, and I would love to answer that. All along I have been saying that we have agreements with consumers for 800 MW, whereas we are supplying 1250 MW to 1300 MW, giving them more than what we had agreed to. This has been the perennial problem that we have not succeeded in resolving, by going in for higher load agreements, as per the actual usage. For this we had three-four times come up with schemes for voluntary load disclosure, so that we do our engineering right. It did not work.
Final option is do this by technology. One, by installation of high-voltage distribution system which will have three transformers for three households; second is Aerial Bunch Cable, which will make hooking difficult so that only that much power can be used that is being paid for. This work has been allotted and is already being done. We want to take payment for each unit consumed, for which we are going for massive metering this year. This time it will be pre-paid: you will have to recharge as much as you want to consume.
KR: You are talking about the consumer’s side, but what about the role of PDD? Where it has to upgrade infrastructure?
HQ: It is a good technical question you have asked. It is very relevant. I will tell you what happens. We do have Aggregate Technical & Commercial (AT&C) losses (above 55 percent) which include pilferage, transmission, and others. This happens as a result of overload on power supply. You have a conductor that has a certain carrying capacity but it ends up supplying beyond it. We have capacity of 1200 MW but we keep loading it to 1400 MW. What will happen at the end of this process? Power cuts.
KR: So, this is what needs to be upgraded, carrying capacity?
HQ: We need to have bigger grid capacity, but my personal view is that we need to have demand management. Rather than going ahead with increasing grid capacities, power generating stations and other things, we need to fit the demand and supply sides. We need to plug holes, which I think is priority number one. Two, we need to have higher capacities like any progressing state. It should be there, and there is no second thought about it. But what is more important is that we bring down the demand side. See, there is no curtailment at night. Where do I get the electricity from? It is there because of less usage of power. We need to get this perspective out in the public.
KR: According to a GoI report, there is a 10 percent increase in power demand every year. I know that things need to be done at the consumer’s level, but we need to have upgraded grid capacity, too. I want to know what the department does to upgrade infrastructure. The Alstang grid station is not complete yet, even after many years. It was designed to meet the current demand. When will we have capacity that will equal what is required? I believe it is easier to do that than to make people change their habits.
HQ: I think I have already answered this question, but maybe you have not noticed the connection. Let me explain. Alstang is a 320MVA grid station which is complete. There is just an issue of transmission line to Alstang, which may take one month to complete. So, we will have additional capacity of 320 MVA. Then there is Bemina, and the Delina augmentation, so by the end of March we are going to have 480MVAs in addition. We may be able to meet 1800 MW demand by that time, giving round-the-clock supply.
KR: For how long will it sustain?
HQ: For that, we need demand management.
KR: Having 1800 MW capacity and demand management are your strategies for uninterrupted supply?
HQ: No, we have other grids coming up. We have one at Lassipora near Pulwama, we have another of 320 MVA at Budgam, which has a line restriction but we are looking into it. We have grids coming up at Tangpora, Khanyar, Khimber. We have huge capacity building happening.
KR: What will the total capacity be after installation of all these stations? And when will they be ready?
HQ: The System and Operations wing can tell you accurate figures. As far as grid and power handling capacities go, it is already very good. See, the question is if we have capacity of 1600 after the installation of Alstang, do we have money to buy power? That is the main issue. On giving 1250 MVA, the state is losing Rs 4,100 crore annually. At 1600 it will be losing Rs 7,000 crore. We don’t have money to buy this power, which is why I say that demand management is very important.
KR: I will come to demand management too, but tell me what the PDD has been doing. Alstang should have been done long time back; in fact, I was told that it will start in November?
HQ: I never said November, but December. It was charged up in December 26 and, trust me, it was a miracle. See for yourself what work has been done in the last three years, what structures have come up.
KR: Why was the work not happening with the same pace earlier?
HQ: If you know, then why are you asking me? I agree we should have done it by 2012.
KR: So what have you learnt from this? Something that can be done for future projects so that they are completed on time?
HQ: It is not that we don’t make mistakes, and I don’t want to give the impression that we are immortal and behave like God. We are planning 10 years ahead of time, but we get stuck in funding. Our state (J&K) is poor, we don’t have resources.
KR: But there is no issue of funding this time?
HQ: Yes, PMDP has allowed all these projects to get done. All these projects were in the pipeline for long. There are many things that as an engineer can be done, but we have to see financial feasibility, too. Best thing for me is that faults never occur, that 33 KV and 11 KV transmission lines go underground. But you can’t do that. It is big elephant for the state. You have to balance, what can be done and what cannot.
KR: What is the amount of money you realise from people on account of electricity charges? And how much you have to pay to buy power? What is the deficit?
HQ: We are getting Rs 2,100-2,200 crore (revenue estimate). We buy power for Rs 6,500 crore. There is a deficit of more than Rs 4,000 crore.
KR: What is the way to meet this deficit?
HQ: Each and every unit pumped into the system must be accounted for.
KR: Do you think our socio-economic realities are such that each unit can be accounted for?
HQ: (laughs) I work at a commercial department, not a social one.
KR: But you have to see the spending power of people, too, before charging them for all the power they consume?
HQ: You have to draw a line somewhere. Either you have to look after welfare or you have to look after the department. Getting this done, gradually, would mean a lot. Right now it means Rs 500 crore getting added to our kitty in addition to what we are getting.
KR: You have recently issued a list of defaulters. What are the recoveries?
HQ: Ask me next month.
KR: I am asking about those who have been long time defaulters?
HQ: There are some cases where people don’t pay, which becomes a habit, which is the same with banks where people don’t pay because of their bad financial discipline.
KR: Let me specifically ask about Asiya Naqash (former minister) who has not paid for many years together?
HQ: There is a dispute in that. About her case I know. Computer does not know many things which exist physically. There is a gentleman whose name happens to be in the list, and has received a bill of Rs 3 crore, but his factory closed down in 1995. These are bogus claims that get accumulated because there is a dispute which has not been arbitrated properly. Her (Asiya’s) case is in the High Court; it is in arbitration issue. There are some who owe Rs 3.5 crore, but there is a stay (from court). There are some hotels where security forces live. There is a dispute between home department and hotels, over who has to pay the bills. A decision came two months ago that it is the home department who has to pay. We are working on these things. At present we are not even able to make disconnections, because it does not help (the purpose). The defaulter will simply hook and consume power without paying. Orders can be given to disconnect but it does not help.
KR: So how are you tackling this?
HQ: By installation of ABC (cables), which will bring down our losses, too. (Aerial Bunch Cables (ABC) are insulated wires that cannot be illegally hooked on to.)