Govt’s tree, discoms pluck fruit
It’s seven years since Reliance-backed BSES took over the job of power distribution in Delhi. But the Capital’s biggest discom has still not replaced around 50 per cent of the old transformers and feeders that bring electricity to your neighbourhood.
“Around 50 per cent of the (distribution) network is old and needs replacement. Old transformers are prone to breakdown,” BSES chairman Lalit Jalan said.
In the ongoing power crisis, mainly in BSES-serviced areas — South, West, East and Central Delhi — the Delhi government and BSES have been blaming the high rate of breakdowns for power cuts lasting 8-10 hours.
Replacing all the old transformers with new ones and upgrading the whole system would have made power supply “unviable for the consumers in the long run,” Jalan said.
“We have already spent Rs 3,500 crore on infrastructure upgrade. Had we spent double that amount during the same period, it would have become unviable for consumers.”
Replacing the transformers was part of the mandate for the private distribution companies when they took over from their predecessor, Delhi Vidyut Board, the government-run distribution utility infamous for frequent breakdowns and power cuts.
What’s more, instead of shelling out money from their own pockets (the three discoms are rich with a surplus of Rs 938 crore), the utilities are now demanding hundreds of crores of rupees from the Centre as grant for the much-needed job.
On their behalf, the Delhi government has sought funds from Union Power Ministry as part of a Rs 50,000-crore national scheme for power infrastructure development.
The Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (APDRP) will immediately give Delhi around Rs 300-Rs 400 crore as part funding for an upgrade.
However, Union Power Ministry reasons that once distribution is in private hands, it is the job of the private discoms to invest in infrastructure and include that in their operation costs.
“That money will only be used for better services. Why should Delhi consumers not benefit from Central funds just because their power distribution is privatised?” asked Arun Kanchan, CEO of BSES.
“Delhi, Orissa and Kerala, where private discoms are in place, have sought the funds. With multiple states making a case for it (aiding private discoms), we are studying the demands now,” Union Power Secretary Harishankar Brahma told Hindustan Times.