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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Decoding Punjab’s power crisis: ‘Practically no cables’; PSPCL insiders point out acute shortage of critical material, working hands

The record shows 900 km availability of 2-core cables against the average requirement of 7,000 km. The availability of 4-core cables of different sizes in the PSPCL stores is at one-fourth of its requirement.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
June 29, 2021 5:13:55 am
punjab electricity issueChandigarh too had zero shortage during the maximum demand hours and its maximum demand was 370 MW.

Behind the power crisis being faced by Punjab in peak summer season is acute shortage of material and men required to keep the supply network up and running amid frequent breakdowns.

In Punjab, the paddy season began from July 10 and PSPCL’s claims of uninterrupted supply got exposed soon after as heavy rain and strong winds paralysed power supply.

Sources said that PSPCL lacks required supply of distribution transformers, 11 KV XLPE (Cross-linked Polyethylene) cables, poles, LT (low tension) cables, and 11 KV shunt capacitors. The stock of transformers is about 25 per cent of their required number.

“As per the records procured by us, the number of transformers of all required capacities available is around 17,000 against the average requirement of more than 67,000 because the damage rate of transformers is at the maximum during the paddy season due to overloading.

Further, against the requirement of around 16,000 transformers for 10/25 KVA, PSPCL has a stock of about 4,700 and 4,100 transformers, respectively,” said V K Gupta, the spokesperson of All Indian Engineers Federation. He added that the shortage of material is there every year, but this year’s position is worst be it distribution transformers, insulators, cables, and cable boxes. Now the management is trying to put blame on pandemic to hide their failures, Gupta said.

In the case of 11KV XLPE cables, PSPCL stores show the availability of about 91 km length against average consumption of the last three years during the paddy season being around 160 km, according to sources.

Sources added that the availability of 2-core and or 4-core cables of different sizes is also less against the average consumptions of the last three paddy seasons.

The record shows 900 km availability of 2-core cables against the average requirement of 7,000 km. The availability of 4-core cables of different sizes in the PSPCL stores is at one-fourth of its requirement.

“PSPCL has failed to purchase the material required for proper maintenance of the power distribution system. There are practically no cables whether it is LT cable or 11KV XLPE cables of different sizes for doing the maintenance works,” said a Chief Engineer.

In view of low stocks of critical items, the allocation of material has been entrusted to chief engineers and they have been asked to regulate the material so that there is no major problem during the paddy season.

“The purchase of emergency field materials has now been entrusted to spot purchase committees thus endangering the quality of material procured,” said Gupta.

“Top authorities have asked all superintending engineers (SEs) not to approach them for materials and they should instead, coordinate with different chief engineers for their requirements. Engineers are worried about the manhandling in absence of the essential material,” said a PSPCL Superintendent Engineer, adding that an independent power minister is required as the a portfolio has been with the CM’s office for long.

“Political compulsions and poll promises are set to take a huge toll on the state’s finances in the election year and it may not be able to clear the power subsidy bill which has steadily risen to ?17,796 crore including arrears, which is more than 10 per cent of Punjab’s total budget,” said another chief engineer, adding that the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) has already worked out a subsidy of ?10,668 crore payable to different consumer categories.

Gupta added: “The financial health of PSPCL totally hinges on the timely payment of subsidy. This money is mostly used to purchase power during paddy season.”

A senior PSPCL officer said that the corporation’s story is a story of shortage of men and material. “Due to improper planning, neither sufficient manpower was arranged, nor sufficient material has been procured, and now the claims of management regarding adequate power availability stand exposed by the recurring power cuts being imposed and insufficient power supply to agriculture consumers,” he said.

“As per the records procured by us, there is an acute shortage of staff in PSPCL as more than 50 per cent of posts are vacant,” said
Gupta, adding that the engineers have cautioned the PSPCL management that in case of any mishap at thermal plants due to staff shortage they should not be held responsible.

The running of all the four units at Ropar thermal and Lehra Mohabbat thermal with skeletal staff can lead to disaster, he warned.

“As per the vacancy statement for the month of May 21, for Ropar thermal, there are 32 posts of Assistant Executive Engineers and Assistant Engineers (AEE/AE) lying vacant in the operation circle which is responsible for running the thermal plant. The department has hired 5 retired engineers for paddy season as an ad-hoc arrangement. There is no staff to watch the running of auxiliaries and most of the locations remain unmanned,” said a source.

Gupta further informed that power distribution system in rural areas has been outsourced and is in shambles.

Meanwhile, A Venu Prasad, Chairman cum Managing Director (CMD), while speaking to the Indian Express said: “No doubt that due to Covid our manufacturing units also got closed and supply line was hit to some extent and now we do not have surplus material, but the at same time there is no shortage of any material as whatever we are requiring for maintenance and repair that is being procured and supplied.”

About the shortage of transformers, he said: “Why do we need to keep a huge number of transformers in advance. Where ever these will be required we will supply.”

Another senior PSPCL officer, on the condition of anonymity, said that there is urgent need of revamping the entire power supply infrastructure across the state.

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