GUWAHATI, Sept 11: Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday said that the state has nearly exhausted power generation capacity from its own sources as the huge spike in demand for electricity this year has “caught it off guard”.
He said the state government has arranged for procurement of more power to meet the demand at regular rates, while long-term arrangements are being made by entering into pacts with different power generation companies.
Replying to an adjournment motion on the power scenario on the first day of the autumn session of the state assembly, Sarma said the state has witnessed a sudden increase in demand for electricity during peak hours this year.
He said that while the peak hour demand was about 1,600 megawatts in 2018-19, it was at 1,800 megawatts in the next two years and reached 1,970 megawatts in 2022-23.
“For the first time, the state saw such a huge increase in demand, which touched 2,500 megawatts this year. Even I do not know what happened, it caught us off-guard,” he said.
The CM said the state is anticipating the peak hour demand to reach 3,000 megawatts next year and 4,000 megawatts by the time his government’s term ends in 2026.
Sarma said that while the government is analyzing the reasons for the sudden spike, people’s prosperity has contributed to it, along with increased business activities.
“As more industries are preparing to open factories in the state, the demand will further increase and the government is preparing to meet it,” he added.
The CM said the state currently has installed its own generation capacity of approximately 400 megawatts, which will increase by some amount with the commissioning of a couple of projects from next year onwards.
“We have no more power generation capacity on our own unless we go for a coal-based plant in Margherita. But that is entangled in environmental issues and we have to look to protect our biodiversity as well,” he said.
With Assam heavily dependent on procured power, Sarma said the state government has signed agreements with different power companies, which will ensure improved availability over the years.
He pointed out that power bought from existing agreements ensures a lesser rate per unit against procurement from the open market, which the state has been forced to do this year to meet the gap.
The CM maintained that the gap has been plugged for the time being with help from the central government and there are no more scheduled power cuts anymore.
“There was some load-shedding for three to four days since August 31 when the power demand had suddenly gone up. But there is no load-shedding anymore,” he said.
Sarma also claimed that the power situation in Assam is better than most Congress-ruled states, stopping short of directly blaming the opposition party for not investing in power generation in the state when it was at the helm of affairs here.
Earlier, moving the adjournment motion, Congress MLA Bharat Chandra Narah said the government should procure power from an open source to meet the demand.
The government has money for various schemes, including crores for a plantation drive. It can use some of the money to ensure that the people get electricity during such hot conditions, he said.
Congress’ Rakibul Hussain, CPI(M) legislator Manoranjan Talukar, AIUDF’s Aminul Islam and Independent MLA Akhil Gogoi also spoke during the discussion on the adjournment motion. (PTI)