The missing monsoon is taking a heavy toll on Punjab's coffers, with the state power corporation set to spend at least Rs 1,500 crore more than last year on purchasing electricity.
As the hydel power stations remain underutilised due to scanty rains, the agrarian state will need power specifically for August, September and October to ensure proper irrigation of standing kharif crops, primarily paddy.
The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has already purchased power worth around Rs 1,600 crore, and has now floated tenders for another 500 MW at a cost of up to Rs 500 crore. The actual cost will depend on availability from the sources, which include the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), the Bhakra-Beas Management Board (BBMB) projects and other short-term and long-term agreements with states.
Last fiscal, Punjab had purchased power worth Rs 5,400 crore, and this year the power purchase bill is likely to cross the figure of Rs 7,000 crore, according to AK Verma, director (distribution), PSPCL.
After calculating the cost of regular supply from the BBMB and other sources, PSPCL has submitted a plan of Rs 5,717 crore for power purchase in the 2012-13 fiscal to the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC). But scanty rains have led to the massive increase in the power purchase bill.
Rain in Punjab has been deficient by at least 65%, with some districts getting near-zero precipitation. "Due to scanty rains, we need more power for the paddy crop and to meet the needs of the domestic sector. The failure of monsoon has already dashed all our plans, thus we have floated a tender for 500 MW power from August to October," Verma told HT.
Verma said that apart from long-term arrangements of worth Rs 1,600 crore for the summer, the PSPCL has already spent Rs 300 crore extra till July to purchase power on day-ahead basis to meet rising demand.
Over 17,000 million units of power, which constitutes 40% of total energy available, are proposed to be bought through short-term, day-ahead buying and unscheduled interchange.
"It's important to provide adequate supply during fructification period of crops, so we have chalked out the plan for August-October," Verma added.
Paddy sowing in Punjab, which contributes 30% rice to the central pool, is almost complete as state eyes 27.8 lakh hectares under the crop for current season.
Almost 34% of PSPCL's revenue is spent on power purchase, sources told PTI. The impact of purchasing more power on state's free power subsidy bill will be known next year only when the true-up exercise is conducted, official said. Punjab's subsidy on free power to farm and other sectors is projected at Rs 5,784 crore for 2012-13.
Looking towards the Centre
The state has also demanded 1,000 MW of additional power from the Centre in lieu of extra money being spent by the state government on purchase of power for the agriculture sector and the additional cost of diesel borne by farmers for irrigation of paddy crop. Due to no rains, farmers are spending Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 per hectare extra on paddy irrigation.
The state also wants an interim relief package of Rs 800 crore from the Centre to overcome difficulties posed by the unfaithful weather.