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Govt had options, but sat on them

This summer, Delhiites could have been saved the harrowing power cuts. Moushumi Das Gupta reports.

delhi Updated: Mar 22, 2008 03:01 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta

This summer, Delhiites could have been saved the harrowing power cuts they struggle through every summer and winter had the Delhi government planned for boosting generation capacity years in advance.

After dilly-dallying for over a decade, it’s only now that the government has woken up to the need to augment the dwindling power-generation capacity within the city. On Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will lay the foundation stone of the 1,500MW gas-based plant in Bawana.

The government’s laxity can be gauged from the fact that the proposal for setting up a dedicated power plant for the Capital in Bawana was first made in 1995. At that time, the planned capacity of the plant was 450MW. Since then, the capacity has been scaled to 1,500MW and the proposal was modified several times but nothing happened on the ground.

Late reaction

Power experts say the government never seriously thought of augmenting the power supply when Delhi’s power demand was not that high. “It is only now when the power situation has spiraled out of control that the government has woken up. It has planned two power plants for the city. But one should remember that the minimum gestation period of any coal or gas based plant varies between 3 and 4 years. So in the interim period till these plants come up, outages are here to stay,” said a senior Central Electricity Authority (CEA) official.

Options before Govt

Power experts say since setting up a coal plant within the city is not allowed, the government should have planned and invested in setting thermal plants outside Delhi.

Experts say the government could also have explored the possibility of investing in hydro power plants in neighboring states like Himachal Pradesh.

Smaller capacity plants

Setting up smaller-capacity power plant like the recent 108MW plant being set up by Tata’s NDPL near Rohini would have gone a long way in solving the city’s power needs, say experts.

Red tapism

Power experts hold red tapism responsible for the delay in setting up power plants in the city. The 108MW gas plant that is being set up by NDPL was in the pipeline for more than a year. But it was only now that the project got the green signal. First the government sat over the proposal, then DDA delayed the change of land use.

Overhauling plants

The five power plants in the Capital — especially Indrapratha, Gas Turbine, Badarpur and Rajghat — are in urgent need of overhauling. Lack of timely maintenance has severely crippled power generation with majority of the plants producing far less then their installed capacity. The reason the power department cannot carry out maintenance at regular intervals is it would further aggravate the power situation in the city. “Shutting different units of power plant at regular intervals for maintenance would have been an option had the existing power plants been in good shape,” said a power department official on conditions of anonymity.

For instance the government had made plans to decommission the 247.5MW Indraprastha power plant way back in early 2000 but nothing happened. “Even now the coal plant is functioning albeit at 36 per cent capacity. The plant has become inefficient and does not meet emission standards,” said the official. The cost of generating power from Delhi's own plants is increasing day by day due to low capacity utilization and high fuel consumption by the plants.