Electricity – Between Hooks and Hikes

SMART meters have arrived ahead of “Smart City” in Srinagar, leaving consumers fuming and the poorer sections lamenting the move. For a long time now, Kashmir has been defined as the hub of hydro-electric power in India and the energy mapping has pegged the hydroelectric potential of the state around a mammoth figure of 20,000 MW. But all this abundance has not helped ease the energy crisis of the state.

The authorities have often blamed insufficient generation, the vagaries of the weather, theft and pilferage and other malpractices on part of consumers as prima facie reasons for the energy deficit of the state. On the other hand, masses have been aghast over erratic power cuts, acute electricity shortage during winters, irrational and exorbitant tariffs and the adoption of means and measures by the department which are antithetical to the climatology and the economy of the place we live in. Fixing this imbroglio calls for an analysis and evaluation of both the ends of the Producer-Consumer chain and spotlighting the flaws and malpractices on part of each to escape the recursive cycle of energy vacuums.

The recent drive of smart-meter installation was supplemented by the revision of tariffs, hiking both the fixed and variable charges. The public resentment against both the moves was contained by the age old slogan of “Electricity round the clock”, but what was seen was effectively the worst form of energy curtailment and the valley was literally plunged into darkness for the entire winter span – the period when energy requirements peak up and electricity becomes  indispensable for survival. These moves, irrespective of their legitimacy and rationale, have come as back-burden to the masses and a welfare state like ours ought to have shouldered the burden of its citizens, instead of causing a spike therein. It has been emphatically said in the report accompanying tariff hikes that the tariff still remains lower than neighbouring states like Haryana, Punjab and others. This is a doubly fallible line of reasoning for the fact that the economic profile of these states is better than that of the Kashmir and the electricity available therein usually comes from thermal plants, which incur heavy running costs, in opposition to the hydroelectric power predominant in Kashmir with no running cost.

A document prepared by the high power committee and released by the then government of Jammu and Kashmir revealed in 2016 that the transmission and distribution losses amounted to the gargantuan 55% of the production. This is crudely analogous to purchasing 100 eggs from the market and spoiling 55 on the way – wasting more than half of the resources in the transit. This requires the immediate structural up gradation of the existing T&D networks not only to minimise losses they presently incur, but to also make them future proof and improve their energy transmission capability. The aforesaid has majorly analysed the production-end-dynamics of the electricity route and it only represents half the picture. Once the distribution networks deliver electricity at the consumer terminals a more diverse and nuanced mechanism pops up and the multidimensional components of the consumption matrix call for the corrective measures of diverse forms. It must be understood that our sense of energy consumption is pathetically backward and ill formed by all means and measures. Recall the energy consumption pattern – leaving the water boiling for hours, the pressing iron plugged without reason and rhyme, the bulbs switched on during the broad daylight and a host of other malpractices which have now become a norm for us, but which are in fact regressive and ill founded.

This is compounded by the malice of pilferage and electricity theft. Despite all the measures taken by the department in terms of constituting inspection squads, levying fines on those found guilty, this habit of pilferage isn’t going away and is a major obstacle towards the realisation of efficient energy deliverance. Another computing nuisance posed by the consumers for the department is that the consumers consume much more than the agreement made with the department – this not only creates temporary spikes in the load but also drastically impacts the load forecasting. What we have tried is an attempt at presenting the scenario of electricity and the factors which lead to its scarcity and the wastage. In an attempt to create a better energy scenario, both the department and the consumers need to work on the respective areas delineated above. That may help us towards energy security and sustainability.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

  • The author is a Srinagar based columnist 

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Amir Suhail Wani

The author is a writer and columnist

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