J&K might live in energy misery for some more years but an emphasis over self-sufficiency and a sound potential has unlocked minds and opened new vistas to progress, reports R S Gull.
Last week, the cabinet approved setting up of a brand new corporation. To be carved out of the Roads and Buildings department, the J&K Road Corporation will have the exclusive domain of laying new communication networks. Officials associated with the exercise are working out a clear mandate for the new entity so that the construction of new roads and improvement of existing ones becomes a faster exercise.
It is not immediately known if all the road related schemes shall be implemented through this corporation. However, the Union Rural Development Minister, Jairam Ramesh has remained concerned over the slow pace of the road laying in the peripheries of J&K. Writing to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on the Prime Minister’s Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) on April 2, 2012, Jairam offered an idea about how huge the task lies ahead.
“Final sanction for 2651 km will be issued by the end of this week,” the minister informed. “Proposals for 900 km will be considered in May and proposals for another 1390 km will be considered in October 2012.”
Despite reservations of some Congress members, the cabinet that met for the first time in Karnah, approved the formation of the new corporation. Officials said it would take some more time to create the new entity.
There are many other such developments in the offing as well. Last fortnight, the state policymakers indicated that the process of setting up of separate utilities for power transmission and power trading is at an advanced stage. While one of the utilities has already been approved by the state power ministry, another is being put before the board of directors of the State Power Development Corporation (SPDC), a wholly owned company of the state power ministry, for mandatory clearance.
“Entire spadework for setting up the J&K State Power Transmission Corporation (SPTC) has already been done,” State’s power commissioner Sudhanshu Panday said. “Now we have to just register it as a company and create the required infrastructure for starting commercial operations.”
Once registered under the Company Act, the government would transfer the entire power transmission infrastructure in the high voltage category to the new entity. Officials said the government currently owns six 220-kv double circuit power transmission lines with a cumulative length of 373.13 kms offering a total circuit connectivity of more than 622 kms. Besides, it owns 34 lines of 132-kv capacity across the state that wheel energy across the length and breadth of the state by covering 1621.12 kms. This whole circuitory being out of date, the power ministry is using the 132 kv Chenaini-Srinagar line to manage the local load on the highway.
It is, however, unlikely that the government will take away the 400 kv double circuit transmission line that evacuates energy from 450- MW Baglihar-I, SPDCs flagship power project of the state that generates energy worth Rs 1100 crore, a year. Most of the transmission lines of the smaller projects are already with the power development department that distributes energy to the consumers.
Power transmission is a major opportunity in J&K as the consumption is quite huge. In 2011-12, J&K consumed more than 10972 million units and most of it – 8578 million units– was imported from the northern grid. At one stage, the state, especially Kashmir valley, had huge demand but the government was unable to maintain the supply because it lacked adequate transmission system.
This led to an intervention by the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL), a company that evacuates energy from all the NHPC projects across the state to the Northern Grid. In November 2006, PGCIL finally set up the main energy artery – the gigantic 184 Kms long 400 kv, double circuit transmission line – that connects Wagoora in Srinagar with Kishanpur in Jammu in J&K. This intervention helped overcome the evacuation issues to a large extent.
The proposed SPTC will also get a new piece of transmission infrastructure as and when Srinagar is connected with Leh through Kargil by a 375 km long 220-kv line that will have an 8.50 km stretch passing through tunnels on Zojilaa– first such project in this part of the world. It will have one each 220/33 KV sub-station at Drass, Kargil, Khaltsi and Leh. The ambitious project now requiring an investment of R 1700 crore will be implemented by the PGCIL and will eventually be owned by the state government.
The idea of a Power Transmission Corporation was originally conceived by the former economic adviser to the state government, Dr Haseeb Drabu, as a director of SPDC. Though some concept work was done, there was neither cash in hand nor any energy around. The idea remained part of the board discussions for a long time only to be revived now when there is cash and energy as well. But to make the venture profitable, the government may have to go for enacting a law that will make power transmission in J&K a state affair. As of now, all the NHPC projects have PGCIL lines evacuating their energy.
The government, at the same time, is planning another major power transmission line that shall follow the Mughal Road connecting Srinagar with twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri. It is seriously considered in the wake of snowfalls regularly playing havoc with the existing transmission system running parallel to the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.
As part of the unbundling of the power distribution system, policymakers had earlier planned creating two more small companies that would distribute power in Kashmir and Jammu regions. This was aimed at reducing the transmission and distribution losses in the state which are at more than 70 per cent, the highest in India.
Now, SPDC is planning floating a separate utility that will exclusively trade in energy. “We have a blueprint ready and it is viable,” PDC MD Basharat Ahmad Dhar told Kashmir Life. “the proposal is likely to be considered in the next meeting of the Board.”
This whole idea of creating new entities for different operations is aimed at professionalizing operations and earning out of it. Officials at the PDC said that the corporation has generated 2393.97 million units in 2011-12 which is almost one-third of the overall consumption of the state. “In the next few years we will be in a position to sell energy outside so why not create the institutional infrastructure for future,” one officer said. “These utilities would come handy for the Independent Power Producers (IPP) who are implementing a number of projects across the state.”
SPDC, that is planning to go public as soon as its accounts are clear, might prefer taking its trading utility to the public first. “We have a number of options,” an officer said.”We can piggyback a utility that is already a Public Limited Company as an affiliate and within a few years it will become a full-fledged listed company.” The major advantage the new utility will have is that it will be having a clean slate with a lot of resources available to be traded right away.
The parent corporation, Dhar pointed out, has come out of its loss-making era. “Right now we are not suffering any losses and from the current fiscal we will be making profits,” he said. The corporation owns 21 projects across the state and is planning to add more than 3200 MW in the twelfth plan.
While the energy-related twin corporations are expected to make good money, naysayers say it will increase the energy costs in the state as each utility will have a stake in the pie in the energy cake.