Bihar’s rising power demand

21 Mar 2011

Bihar has low electricity consumption but it might see a big jump in its power demand soon, with rural electrification programme in the state progressing at a brisk pace. The state should deal with the emerging challenge through a strategy involving both supply and demand side measures.

Bihar has achieved very high growth rate in the past five years. Sustenance of this growth rate requires huge jump in electricity demand. Bihar's per capita annual consumption of electricity of around 100 kWh against the national average of around 700 kWh is due to very poor state owned generation (only one unit of 110 MW is in operation with 38% plant load factor) and low allocation from CPSU (around 1,600 MW). Rural electrification which currently stands at around 10% is expected to grow to around 100% in the next two years thanks to RGGVY.

With T&D losses at 38%, the finances of Bihar State Electricity Board are in poor shape. The Government provided the Board with revenue subsidy and grant of R720 crore in the financial year 2008-09. It is essential for the state to adopt a multi-pronged strategy so that in a short time frame availability of power can be increased, T&D losses can be reduced, wasteful consumption is controlled, demand side management used to reduce peak power demand and Distributed Generation used to provide security of supply in rural sector.

An option of arranging for electricity in a short time lies in procurement of electricity through; bidding process from generation which is neither fuel nor location specific. This is especially important as it normally takes around four years to set up and commission a thermal power plant. In addition, new plants can get bogged down by issues of land acquisition, environmental clearances, coal linkages and financial closure; the State can actively engage with Nepal to set up Hydel based generation in the Himalayan Rivers. Although time consuming, this is one source which is perennial in nature, is carbon neutral and will assist in flood management of North Bihar. Engaging corporate entities to participate in unique and sustainable initiatives by the government can be another source. The Public-Private-Partnership model will enhance the promotion of alternate energy source schemes already available. TERI's ‘Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL)' campaign has succeeded in illuminating the lives of over 1.5 lakh people, spread over 600 villages across 16 states in India, since its inception. The campaign receives support from corporates and PSUs among its various partners, who believe that corporate responsibilities go beyond the financials.

Bihar is essentially an agrarian state and various renewable means of generating electricity can be effectively employed. Distributed Generation using biomass such as rice husk, corn cobs/other renewable sources has the potential to enhance security of supply and provide employment in rural areas. Co-generation in sugar mills should also be promoted.

Loss reduction strategies and load management programmes are required to be implemented by ensuring metering up to distribution transformer level linked to remote computer so that power flows can be monitored on line and segment of high losses identified and corrective actions taken swiftly. Consumer indexing is essential for loss reduction as the difference between energy sent out from each transformer and the energy billed and collected for consumers linked to each transformer provides the real picture of transformer wise T&D loss and AT&C loss. Load flow studies should be used for upgradation , strengthening and expansion of distribution network. This shall also help in loss reduction and improve security of supply.

Re-organisation of the electricity board into transmission, generation and distribution needs to be carried out as it provides operational, managerial and functional autonomy to successor utilities to operate along commercial lines. It also transfers past losses to a holding company thus paving the way for financial turnaround of the sector. An independent SLDC for real time operations and control of state grid, scheduling and dispatch, energy accounting is necessary for efficient and secure functioning of the power sector. Special Electricity Courts as per the Electricity Act, 2003 need to be established to address issues related to illegal abstraction of electricity and help in loss reduction drives. Voltage wise energy audit and energy accounting is necessary to be carried out so that technical and commercial losses can be segregated and suitable targeted interventions identified and implemented.

Demand Side management (DSM) based on ESCO model (Energy Service Companies) being promoted by BEE for replacing inefficient agricultural pump sets provides an opportunity to change them with no cost to the farmer or the Government or the distribution utility and help in reducing demand as well reducing electricity consumption. Bachhat Lamp Yojna being promoted by BEE can be used to promote efficient lighting. These initiatives also help in reducing carbon footprint.

Fast tracking of electricity reforms, IT interventions both for on line monitoring through Supervisory Data Acquisition and Control Systems (SCADA) and Management Information System are necessary for achieving security of supply with a low carbon pathway.

Assured and affordable availability of electricity shall provide the base for all round development and industrial growth of Bihar. It holds the key to fulfilling aspirations of people in Bihar.

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