Meghalaya faces shortfall of 25-30 per cent of power demand



Meghalaya Power Minister James P K Sangma, on Friday, informed that the State is facing a shortfall of about 25-30 per cent of power demand, and has resulted in the imposition of 6-hour load shedding across the State.

"We are trying our level best to minimise the load shedding (duration) as much as possible," Sangma said, adding that he cannot provide a specific timeframe for the load shedding to be lifted as the process is underway.

"We are trying our level best to make sure that it is done within 48 hours, but I don't want to give a specific timeframe. Once this due process is completed, I hope we will get rid of load shedding," the Power Minister said.

Meghalaya is currently experiencing power supply disruption after the National Thermal Power Corporation of India (NTPC) invoked the Letter of Credit (LC) which restricted Short Term Open Access (STOA) through the North Eastern Regional Load Despatch Centre (NERLDC).

After the power crisis deepened a few days ago, Sangma rushed to New Delhi to meet with Union Power Minister Raj Kumar Singh on March 3.

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Sangma said he had apprised the Union Minister that Meghalaya had availed Rs 1,345 crore from the Atma Nirbhar Bharat scheme loan and even disbursed Rs 100 crore out of the Rs 630 crore of the same to the NTPC from the first tranche.

The Government of Meghalaya had already expressed its commitment to repay the outstanding energy dues and late payment surcharges, the Power Minister informed.

The Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), signed in 2007 between the Meghalaya Government and the Bongaigaon Thermal Power Plant from where the States are drawing power, was commissioned in 2017.

"But because of many reasons, the tariff rates that finally emerged were extremely high; that is why it became very unviable for us to draw power," the Meghalaya Power Minister said, adding that the same was communicated to the Ministry of Power.

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"It is not just Meghalaya that has been affected by this but all states who are signatories to the PPA. Since the tariff rate was so high, we had decided some time back not to draw power. But unfortunately, because we are signatories to the PPA, we have to pay the fixed charges which have accumulated over the years," Sangma added.

The Bongaigaon power plant in Assam is the first project of the NTPC in the Northeast. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had laid the foundation stone for the project in January 2006.

When asked how the NTPC can direct the regional load dispatch centre to stop the power supply to Meghalaya, Sangma said, "There is a Government of India order in 2019 whereby the scheduling of power is vetted or communicated to NERLDC by generating companies and these companies are to do it only when the Letter of Credit (LC) is put in place."

"So, subject to the LC being made available, the generating companies then advise the load shedding dispatch centre for scheduling of power. But since our LC was encashed in February, we were asked to provide a new LC which is a challenge for the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited," he said.

(Edited by Iban Mawrie)