Saturday, May 25, 2024

Electricity demand in Assam to reach 4000 MW in 2026. Is the government prepared with power?

Mohsin Khaiyam (Senior Sub Editor)

Within the coming years, Assam will need nearly 3000 MW of electricity, and by the year 2026, it will need an estimated 4000 MW, but none of that is produced or even available in the state. Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had faced severe criticism about the issue and the fact that load shedding has been taking place in several places in Assam. Some places in the state reported that nearly four to five hours of the day are spent without electricity, while others claim that they only receive electricity for a few hours. 

These claims are contrary to the claims that the BJP-led government made in Assam in 2016. They had promised 24 hours of electricity in the state, and hence, when the power cuts are seen, the promise sounds quite false. However, it seems like the government is doing very little to address the situation. Even in Guwahati, people have complained that they face severe power cuts, sometimes for hours.

With the debate continuing, on Monday, Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed that there has been no load shedding in the state in the past three days and that it will not take place in the coming days. Replying to an adjournment motion on the prevailing power situation in the state on the first day of the autumn session of the state assembly, Sarma said the state has nearly exhausted power generation capacity from its sources as the huge spike in demand for electricity this year has caught it off-guard. According to Sarma, the state government has made arrangements for the purchase of additional power to meet demand at regular rates while also making long-term agreements by signing contracts with various power generation companies.

The electricity demand in the state was 1535 MW in peak hours during 2016. However, it reached 1600 MW in 2020-21 and suddenly it has gone up to 1970 MW in September 2023.

“We expect that the electricity demand in peak hours will be 3000 MW by 2024 and will go up to 4000 MW by 2026. After I assumed charge as chief minister of the state, only 5 MW of load shedding was recorded in 2021-22. There was no report of load shedding in 2022. Our deficit is only 3 MW to 5 MW. But suddenly, the deficit has gone up to 700 MW in the first three days of September. But there has been no deficit in the last three days. There will not be a power deficit in the state in the coming days,” Sarma said.

He claimed that the power deficit in Assam is less than other states of the country.

“In 2021, Himachal Pradesh had a deficit of 250 MW, Punjab had 125 MW, Uttar Pradesh had 170 MW, Maharashtra had 59 MW, Andhra Pradesh had 519 MW, Bihar had 604 MW, and Jharkhand had a deficit of 276 MW,” Sarma said, quoting the report of the Central Electricity Authority.

“If we see the load shedding report of 2022–23, Jammu and Kashmir had a deficit of 170 MW, Rajasthan by 190 MW, Uttar Pradesh by 780 MW, Maharashtra by 2000 MW, Kerala by 329 MW, Bihar by 1220 MW, Jharkhand by 336 MW, and West Bengal by 225 MW,” the Chief Minister also said.

Assam produces only 400 MW of electricity out of the 2500 MW of electricity demand during peak hours. Sarma said the previous government had done nothing to improve the generation of electricity according to demand in the state.

“Now there is no scope for electricity generation in the state to meet the demand. There is no water resource; all rivers are drying up. There is no sufficient stock of coal for thermal power production. If we set up a power plant at Margherita, it will pose a threat to the biodiversity of the area,” Sarma said.

“We will get 25 MW of electricity from Karbi Langpi power projects, which will be commissioned next year. We will also get 50 MW of electricity from the Lower Kopili project next year,” he also said.

As the refinery expands, Numaligarh Refinery Ltd. (NRL) will need to consume an additional 400 MW of electricity.

“There is no feasibility of a gas-based power project. We have no alternative but solar projects. But the solar projects can’t generate electricity during the night. We will go for electricity production in the Kulsi River after the Meghalaya government clears the project,” he said.

“Two Bhutan-based projects will also supply 374 MW of electricity starting next year. We have also signed a MoU with NTPC and another Uttar Pradesh power company for 150 MW of electricity in the next year. From this, we have estimated that the electricity demand will go up to 2678 by 2028,” he added.

With all the debate, the Chief Minister has now said that the only option left is for any MLA to advocate setting up a site that would be feasible for a coal power plant. With this, the state might be able to produce the needed electricity.

“But that comes with the price of risking biodiversity. The most proper site was in Margherita, but it seems that some people, including Akhil Gogoi, have already opposed that,” he added.

While the CM’s address regarding the power crisis seems like a relief, the only issue is whether that will continue in the long run. Often before elections, promises are made, and once the election is over, they turn out to be futile.

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