Guwahati: Assam MLAs, cutting across party lines, on Thursday slammed the power sector of the state by pointing out several shortcomings, including less electricity generation than demand, transmission loss, faulty billing and breakdown of transformers, and urged the government to initiate steps to reform the energy segment.
During a day-long discussion on the power department on the initiative of the speaker in the state assembly, the BJP-led government also accepted that the sector has not progressed as per expectations.
BPF MLA Durga Das Boro said power generation in Assam is “very less than demand”, and the state is importing energy to meet its requirement.
“Our peak demand is over 2,000 MW but generation is little more than 350 MW. Today, surplus states are providing us power, but when they will need their complete production, people of Assam will live in darkness,” he said.
Boro also claimed that the state-run power companies have “failed” on generation, distribution and transmission fronts and become loss-making ventures.
He appealed to the government to appoint technical experts to head these entities.
The sector has three government-controlled companies — Assam Power Generation Corp Ltd (APGCL), Assam Electricity Grid Corp Ltd (AEGCL) and Assam Power Distribution Company Ltd (APDCL).
BJP MLA Nandita Gorlosa said Assam is purchasing power from other states at a higher rate due to the lack of a proper mechanism.
Bharat Chandra Narah, the MLA of the opposition Congress said power theft and faulty billing are big issues, and the average income is Rs 420 crore per month as against an expenditure of Rs 520 crore.
“Frequent breakdown of transformers is a problem. The department disconnects a transformer if just 10 per cent of consumers connected through that unit do not pay bills. In this manner, people pay bills and also suffer,” he said.
Alleging that technicians do not visit sites even after receiving complaints BJP’s Jitu Goswami said the shortage of manpower is affecting the functioning of the department.
“There is a village in my constituency (Barhampur) where there was no electricity for two-and-half years after its transformer broke down and it was not replaced as we have a shortage of such unit,” he said.
Besides buying new transformers, old ones should be repaired, Goswami said.
CPI(M) legislator Manoranjan Talukdar said the per capita consumption of power stands at 340 KW and it is estimated to reach 924 KW in 2030.
“What will happen then if we don’t generate power now? Consumers are complaining of excessive billing due to faulty meters at different places,” he added.
Independent legislator Akhil Gogoi highlighted that the installed power generation capacity in Assam is 1,710 MW as against 3,56,100 MW across the country.
“A huge amount of electricity is lost during transmission and this issue should be addressed to give power to the poor,” he said.
AIUDF legislator Aminul Islam claimed that the sector is not getting due importance and sought reforms in the administration of the department.
The ruling BJP’s alliance partner AGP legislator Ramendra Narayan Kalita urged the government to focus on micro hydel and solar power projects to augment the generation of electricity.
Gobinda Chandra Basumatary, the legislator of the UPPL which is also a partner of the saffron party, asked the government to think about alternative means to generate power to meet the demand.
Congress MLA Nurul Huda alleged that people in the state get on an average 15-16 hours of electricity every day, instead of the BJP’s promise before the 2016 assembly polls to provide power for 24 hours.
AIUDF’s Ashraful Hussain said the power loss has been pegged at a whopping 16-17 per cent, and the situation will improve considerably if this issue is addressed.
Diganta Kalita of the BJP appealed to all the MLAs to start floating solar power plants on ponds to generate electricity at local levels.
AGP’s Prodip Hazarika said the state has all the resources to become self-sustaining in power generation, but “nothing has been done”.
Presenting the government’s view after 31 MLAs spoke on the topic, Industries and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said, “It is true that we have not been able to progress in the power sector as we should have been. We have 10 per cent of India’s water, but still deficient in power generation.”
With the downstream protection, the government is willing to consider small hydro projects and seeks support from all MLAs for the purpose.
“We are currently producing 367 MW and our demand is more than 2,000 MW. But we are not short of power and supplying it to the people by bringing it from outside,” he said.
Patowary also said the revenue collection by the APDCL touched an all-time high of Rs 735 crore last month on account of various reformative steps and plugging leakage.
“Assam currently has 93,000 transformers and needs 9,000 more units. Tenders have been issued for 5,000 units and 3,000 will be repaired. APDCL has ordered that if some people don’t pay bills, the connection of the transformer concerned will not be cut,” he said.
To stop transmission loss, he said the state government has received Rs 3,400 crore loan from Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to carry out a project, under which 11,000-km transmission lines with a high-voltage distribution system will be strengthened.
The AEGCL has secured another loan of Rs 4,510 crore from the AIIB for laying optical fibre across the state, Patowary informed the House.
“Solar is a priority for the government. We have already put up solar panels generating 37.5 MW and are also installing smart and pre-paid meters to stop the misuse of electricity. All the government offices will be having pre-paid meters,” he added.
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