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Punjab: Free electricity leads to a 12% jump in power consumption in January, unpaid bills and summer months ahead cause concern

Recently, the power engineers in the state warned the government that the state may face power shortages or blackouts in the upcoming paddy season if immediate corrective and timely actions are not taken.

Punjab power minister Harbhajan Singh has said in a statement that compared to January 2022, the monthly power consumption in the state has gone up by 12 per cent. The minister added that Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) met the demand successfully by optimum utilisation of the resources. As per reports, 54,237 million units were consumed in January 2022 which rose to 60,762 units million units this year.

As per the officials, the rise in consumption can be attributed to two reasons. First, there was an intense cold wave and second, the government of Punjab under the Aam Aadmi Party is providing 600 units of free electricity in a billing cycle.

PSPCL met the requirement by arranging electricity from outside the state. Punjab’s thermal and hydropower generation capacity was also increased. Notably, the thermal power generation from PSPCL-owned plants in Lehra and Ropar was increased by 128 per cent. These two units produced 2,736 million units in January 2022. However, in January 2023 the power general was clocked at 6,229 million units.

Similarly, the power generation in hydro projects owned by PSPCL and BBMB increased by 21 per cent and 13 per cent respectively. In PSPCL-owned hydropower units, the power generation was upped from 2,946 million units to 3,567 million units. In BBMB, it increased from 3,067 million units to 3,454 million units.

There has been a sharp increase in the banking of power with other states. As per reports, compared to 1,917 million units in January 2022, 3,487 million units of electricity were consumed that were banked from other states.

The real test is yet to begin

The power consumption in winter is comparatively less in the state. The real test will begin as the temperature will soar in the coming months. Since the government of Punjab announced free 300 units of electricity per month, consumption has consistently increased compared to previous years. For example, in September last year, the power demand rose by 22 per cent.

With the increased demand for power, scheduled and unscheduled power cuts have become more frequent in the state. At the beginning of this year, the state saw a rise of 27 per cent in the demand, that too when historically power consumption is at its lowest during January. There were frequent power cuts reported in the state but the authorities maintained they were just “technical snags”.

Recently, the power engineers in the state warned the government that the state may face power shortages or blackouts in the upcoming paddy season if immediate corrective and timely actions are not taken. The PSEB Engineers’ Association wrote to the Chief Minister saying the “costly indecisions” including mounting subsidy bill, widening expenditure gap and no substantial increase in power generation will cause problems in the coming month.

Subsidy and non-payment of the subsidy bill by the government were stated as prominent reasons in the letter. “Punjab Government’s annual power subsidy bill in this financial year is expected to cross Rs 19,000 crore in 2022-23, which includes free and subsidized power to industries, agriculture, and domestic consumers, that too without considering the backlog subsidy payment of Rs 9,020 crores,” said the association.

Furthermore, the association accused the government of “deliberately underestimating the expenditure” on power subsidy by almost Rs 7,000 crore. The association said, “Now, with no budget provision for this big gap in expenditure, PSPCL is being forced to arrange funds on its own by loans from banks and financial institutions at high-interest rates and this lending will increase the overall cost of power for the ordinary consumers.”

The association also alleged that some politically backed elements in the state are using “every mean possible” to keep their consumption “below the 600 units threshold”. Such elements, according to the association are creating trouble for the corporation staff and stopping them from conducting vigilant activities to stop electricity theft.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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