Kohima: During the 21st North Eastern Regional Power Committee (NERPC) held at Hotel Vivor in Kohima on Thursday, Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and officials from the power department from across the Northeast region deliberated on transforming the power sector in the region.
Nagaland Chief Minister and Chairman of the NERPC Neiphiu Rio reminded that the as most of the Northeast region is carved out of political turmoil, social geography and ethnic consideration, infrastructural development in the region is yet to take place till date.
As the country moves towards advancement, Rio said that the benefits of a growing economy in the Country should be shared with the small and underdeveloped states of Northeastern Region. “I feel [that] India as a country can truly be called a developed Country only when Northeastern Region prosper in every way,” said Rio.
Rio acknowledged the ministry of Power under the government of India for the implementation of World Bank-funded projects like Northeast Region Power System Improvement Project (NERPSIP) undertaken by the POWERGRID for constructing transmission lines and sub-stations that are in progress. He urged the implementing agency to speed up the Tranche-I of the NERPSIP as it is behind schedule.
The CM also expressed concern over the issue regarding 100% funding under PSDF for the region as against the existing guidelines of 50% funding support for “reliable communication” which was discussed during the last NERPC meeting, which made no progress.
Minister for Power, Law, Forest & Environment, Taxation, Information & Public Relations, Meghalaya, James K Sangma in his address said that although the Northeastern states often face many challenges due to its geographical isolation, the region is blessed with vast hydro potential which needs to be “tapped”.
“However, the pace of development in this sector has remained slow due to many hurdles. In terms of hydropower, the Northeastern region has the potential of about 58,971 MW which is 40% of the country’s total hydro potential,” said Sangma. The legislator added that the region stands to become a major power-house of India if its surplus power potential is utilized, especially in the hydel sector.
As Meghalaya is witnessing exponential growth in demand for power, he said that the government ensured that the industrial tariff is amongst the lowest in the region at Rs 4.9 per unit, to boost the industrial activity.
Sangma urged the gathering to explore new evacuation of surplus power from the region to Bangladesh and earn additional revenue by providing corridor to Bangladesh. With the state not being able to commit full payment towards power purchase dues, he requested the generating units to consider liquidation of energy charges so that an additional levy of the surcharge is reduced.
Adviser to the Department of Power, Nagaland, Tovihoto Ayemi, shared that the Northeast region has abundant natural resources, including hydropower. However, it has not properly been harnessed despite being considered as a region to be a potential hydro powerhouse in the country.
He said that there is a huge shortfall in the generating capacity for which Northeastern states are compelled to import power at higher cost through Eastern and Northern grids. He said that under the direction of Ministry of Power (MoP), a common data centre and a disaster recovery centre was set up at Guwahati and Agartala respectively.
Although the project is funded by the ministry, he said that the operation and maintenance are done by the respective North-eastern states. With concern, he said that if Assam exits from the common facility after February this month, Rs 22 crore per annum will have to be borne by the other states in the region and Nagaland will have to pay Rs 3.12 crore per annum. “We [the state] will not be able to take the additional financial burden,” he said.
As the other states may also share the common concern, he requested the centre to consider funding the project during the gap period for at least three years.
Deputy Chief Minister Tripura and Minister in charge of Power, Jishnu Dev Varma in his message expressed concern about the recent notification of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC). He said the recovery of Inter-State Transmission charges methodology on Point of Connection (PoC) mechanism will put an additional financial burden on the state and that the matter needs to be reviewed for the interest of the region as a whole.
He also stressed on the need for developing skilled manpower in the region along with the capacity building.
Advisor, Power and Hydropower of Arunachal Pradesh, Balo Raja, also urged the Ministry of Power, to change the funding pattern under the Power System Development Fund (PSDF) from 50:50 ratio to 100%.
He said that Arunachal Pradesh is unable to install Optical Fibre Ground Wire (OPGW) over the existing transmission system under PDSF funding. He informed that the department of Power in the state has a DPR of about Rs 33 crore pending with the ministry for which only 50% is admissible as per the present norms.
Regarding the Tawang-Bhutan International connectivity, he said that the proposed 132 KV transmission line from Khuppi to Tawang would become a long radial line terminating in the district. “Such a long radial line is a huge concern from the point of reliability causing serious operational challenges and issues,” he added.