Capital's power woes

The Union capital of Delhi is yet to recover completely from the power crisis which followed a sharp, short thunderstorm on May 30.

It left power lines and electric towers knocked down and electricity supplies disrupted. The snapped electricity lines only aggravated and brought under focus a problem that was allowed to linger by the authorities.

As mercury touched some record highs, the power demand peaked, leading to outages that initially lasted up to 8-10 hours in a day in some areas – the situation has improved somewhat since then – triggering frayed tempers, some violence and the beginning of a political blame-game.

For the BJP, the timing of the crisis couldn't have been worse. With Delhi under the President's rule, the party at the Centre is bound to take the rap. The rivals, gearing up to the possibility of fresh Assembly elections in Delhi, have been quick to add to the BJP's discomfort.

The Aam Aadmi Party has stumbled upon a chance to regain its lost relevance, and the Congress has been holding protests almost every day.

But the Congress, in power until recently, is not above blame. The party’s government, which ruled Delhi for 15 years, has to take the blame for setting up proper infrastructure for transmission and distribution of power. Transmission lines need overhaul and are prone to breakdowns even when power is available from the Northern Grid.

Power distribution was privatised during the Congress regime but the distribution companies are known to have got away with too much. Then, there is the case of the power plant at Bawana. The gas-fired plant was supposed to generate 1,500 megawatts, meeting a big chunk of city's peak season demand of 5,500 MW.

But the city government has failed to ensure a steady supply of cheap gas for it. So, its power generation rarely raises over 200 MW. On some days the Rs 4,500 crore facility just remains idle.

Union power minister Piyush Goyal has promised to fix the problem 'within a fortnight' but he has to follow that up with action on the ground. He has said state-run GAIL and NTPC will provide extra natural gas to power plants in the city to increase local generation by 400 MW.

There are reports that dilapidated power grids cannot cope with the extra electricity needed to meet the demand. It is time the Centre got cracking on long-term solutions to resolve the power woes of Delhiites.

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