Assam to boost power generation

Guwahati: Assam is set to undertake the second phase of power sector reforms, which is expected to see major initiatives to boost generation and greater efforts for privatisation.

“In 2005 we started the first phase of reforms which saw restructuring of the then power behemoth Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB).”

“Now we are poised to undertake the second phase of the reforms where focus would on increasing generation and improving transmission and distribution,” Minister for Power, Commerce and Industries Pradyut Bordoloi said.

Asked if it could even mean greater privatisation, the minister said: “We would like to strengthen the public sector units but if the work culture in the companies do not change, then yes, we may look at privatisation also.”

As per state government data, Assam has a peak demand of 720 MW-780 MW. Of this only 130 MW-150 MW of power is being generated from its own power stations, while another around 400 MW is being imported from central sector generating stations in the North Eastern region and remaining from other sources like private producers and power trading agencies.

There is a shortfall of about 100-150 MW during peak demand.

Bordoloi castigated the state run firms like Assam Power Generation Company Ltd for failure to increase production capacity, despite huge financial incentives.

The government had come in for lot of criticism earlier this month after Assam witnessed severe power shortage following breakdown in supply from the National Grid after storm uprooted two circuits in North Bengal.

Elaborating further, Bordoloi said the state is expected to get another 360 MW in months to come.

“The first phase of Bongaigaon Thermal Power Project is expected to be completed by early 2013 and this will generate 240 MW. Besides, we will receive 120 MW from the Palatana project in Tripura where we have a stake,” he said.

Bordoloi said Assam is also trying to secure electricity from captive power plants operated by various institutions and the Digboi Oil Refinery has already agreed to supply six Mega Watts.

The minister further said that work on four large projects, including a 100 MW one at Namrup, and 10 small projects are underway.

“We have also asked the central government to allow us to have coal linkage for the planned project at Margherita and for the Bongaigaon project,” he said.

Bordoloi agreed that the industrial houses in the state suffered massive losses during the recent power crisis, which continued for over a week but added that the exact quantum of loss is still being worked out.

“Therefore, we are focusing more on captive power supply and already 40 tea gardens in upper Assam have started own power generation by using gas,” he said, adding that the state government is keen to set up small projects at ONGC sites in Golaghat and the districts of Barak Valley.

Stating that the industrial sector had incurred losses during the recent power crisis in Assam, Power and Industries Minister Pradyut Bordoloi said on Wednesday that the units are being encouraged to take up captive power generation to tide over such problems.

‘The industrial units have incurred losses, though we are yet to assess the exact amount of loss. I had met members of two chambers of commerce and we are in process of evaluating the loss,’ Mr Bordoloi told reporters here.

He added that the tea sector has also faced losses as this is a crucial period for tea production.

Damage to two 400 KV national grid power transmission towers in Jalpaiguri during a storm on May 3 had led to unprecedented power shortage in Assam, leading to long hours of power cut.

One of the towers was restored on May 12, while the other began functioning on Tuesday.

The minister pointed out that most big industries, including the refineries and paper plant, have captive power generating units, which is being further encouraged by the state government. ‘The state is buying 6 MW power of their excess generated power from the Digboi refinery and they are likely to increase it to 18 MW,’ Mr Bordoloi.

He added, ‘We are encouraging other industries to also produce excess power, which can be bought by the state.’

‘The government-owned companies will get priority for taking up power generation projects. But if they fail to deliver, we may have to opt for private players,’ he said.

He added, ‘We are not for privatisation, but want professionalism in the government sector.’

Claiming that the dismal situation in terms of state’s own power generation was due to no investment in the sector in 35 years till 2004, the minister said the government had been successful in gradually increasing the generation capacity.

After the first phase of reforms, the power generation in the state has gone up to 379.5 MW (2005-12) from 192 MW (1995-2004). (Agencies)

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