In a state where so much of its power supply is dependent on hydroelectricity, there is no real alternative to sweeping load shedding that Meghalaya is currently facing.
Power Minister AT Mondal said as much today while informing that the state government will file separate affidavits (as directed) with the Meghalaya High Court, one from the state-owned power utility and the other from the government proper.
The High Court had directed the state government and the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL) to file independent affidavits indicating equitable distribution of load shedding hours and the alternative arrangements being made for maintenance of essential services like hospitals, airports and other key installations.
It has been a point of contention for some in Garo Hills as to why they face 10 hours of cuts per day, when, for example, Shillong experiences 7 hours per day.
The state and the MeECL will file independent affidavits to indicate the immediate, the short-term and the long-term measures and projections of demand and plan of action during accidental shutdown of any power plant and alternative sources that may be available in the state.
With generation capacity down due to this being the dry season, Meghalaya could purchase electricity on the open market but the MeECL would run at a further loss as it only charges Rs 5 per unit and buying power from elsewhere would end up costing the already financially troubled company too much.
“We cannot just hike our tariffs. We have to go through the regulatory commission. We are already petitioning the regulatory commission and it is now up to the High Court to take a call but that will depend on our affidavit,” Mondal said.
As of now, Meghalaya is fully dependent on rain for its own electricity generation and changing that would only be a long-term solution, not a short-term one.
“As of now our generation units are all hydro and all these units depend on river water. Except Barapani (Umiam), all the generation units are also run of the river projects, so when the lean season is prolonged for this long, and we haven’t had a dry spell like this for a decade, we need to think how to cope with this problem,” the minister said.
Some thermal power capacity would help address the balance but the use of coal is an increasingly unpopular one given its carbon dioxide emissions that will only add to climate change. Building thermal power plants would also take a lot of time and there are other issues, such as environmental clearance and securing a supply of coal as well. Whether such a project could be a state venture or done privately is another matter. What Meghalaya can ill afford is an unfavourable power purchase agreement where it would be saddled with paying high prices for power, which is what happened with another project from several years ago; at least that is this government’s argument, though former Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma denies it.
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