India Today

‘The hidden cost of the power cut is worrisome’

- — Kiran D. Tare

SUDHIR DHUTTEKAR 47 Proprietor, Avnish Engineerin­g, Latur

His power press and powder coating business was already reeling under high iron prices. Daily unschedule­d power cuts of 1-1.5 hours have now added to Sudhir Dhuttekar’s woes. The erratic supply has damaged several parts of his CNC (computer numerical control) machine. “The CNC panel circuit was damaged. I repaired it, but the production cost went up by 10 per cent,” says Dhuttekar. He also spent Rs 4,500 on fixing the stepping machine, which too was damaged amid the power fluctuatio­n.

“The hidden cost of the power cut is more worrisome,” says Dhuttekar. “I can’t hike the final product prices as the customer has already booked it at a fixed rate. My profit margin has come down by 15 per cent.”

Dhuttekar has installed a diesel-run power generator with 100-watt capacity. “If the generator is run for at least one and a half hours daily, it costs me an extra Rs 1,800-2,000 a month,” he says. He also has to pay overtime charges to the labourers. “As the work is not over in the stipulated time due to the power cut, I have to ask the labourers to stay back. Even if they work an extra hour, I have to give them overtime charges of Rs 1,200.”

At 28.5 GW, Maharashtr­a’s power demand has been the highest in two years. However, the state is able to meet demand up to 25 GW only. It has now decided to buy additional power from Coastal Gujarat Power Limited (CGPL), which has a power production plant in Mundra in Gujarat.

MUSAFIR KUSHWAHA, 65 Farmer, Singhaul village, Nawada

May 3 was the first time in years when Musafir Kushwaha used a diesel pump to irrigate his two-acre farm. There had been no power since 10 am and by evening, Kushwaha had no choice but to fall back on this expensive option. “One hour of running a diesel power motor cost me about one litre of fuel,” he says. It is just too costly for Kushwaha, who grows seasonal vegetables.

The power situation in Kushwaha’s village has worsened in the past month. “We used to have 18 hours of

largely uninterrup­ted power earlier. Now, we barely get around 12-13 hours and the power supply is erratic. These days, we irrigate our fields at night when the power supply is steady.” The power crisis could not have come at a worse time as the heat wave means his vegetables have to be watered twice daily.

The current power crisis is doubly difficult for farmers like Kushwaha, who had become accustomed to an improved power situation in the state. The per unit cost of electricit­y for agricultur­e purposes is Rs 5.55 in Bihar. With a government subsidy of Rs 4.85 per unit, the effective cost is just Rs 0.70 per unit.

As of now, all 45,103 villages in Bihar are connected to the grid. The average number of daily hours of power supply, too, rose from 6-8 hours in 2014 to 18-20 hours in rural areas and from 1012 hours in urban areas to 23-24 hours.

Currently, however, the demand for electricit­y in Bihar is close to 5.6 GW whereas the availabili­ty from different sources is 5 GW. The state-owned National Thermal Power Corporatio­n (NTPC) has an installed capacity of up to 8.4 GW across six thermal power projects. The power utility, though, is providing just 4.2-4.8 MW daily of the total 5.2 GW allocation.

Bihar energy secretary Sanjeev Hans attributes the power deficit to the sudden spurt in demand due to the early arrival of peak summer and the consequent supply shortfall. The government is now purchasing around 500-600 MW from India Energy Exchange at a higher rate, but it is not enough.

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