BHUBANESWAR: The growing resentment over power outages in Bhubaneswar as well as across the state has led to a curious situation with re-assertion of Energy Minister Pratap Keshari Deb that overload on the distribution system is to be blamed for frequent disruptions, a day after chief secretary PK Jena chastised the Tata Power Central Odisha Distribution Limited (TPCODL) for it ineptness.
The minister who refused to pull up Tata Power-managed power distribution companies for their performance on Saturday said, “We are bound to snap power during thunderstorms.” He also seemed to indicate that inadequate power infrastructure is to be blamed for the frequent supply failures.
For record’s sake, Odisha, a power-surplus state, has been a harbinger of energy sector reforms.
The forceful advocacy of the minister came at a time when the chief secretary expressed his displeasure over tardy restoration of power supply by TPCODL after a Nor’wester on Thursday uprooted trees affecting distribution network in several parts of state capital and Cuttack.
In fact, Jena has convened a meeting of the chief executive officers of TPCODL, TPSODL, TPNODL and TPWODL on Monday to discuss the unacceptable level of power disruption when people of the state are facing one of the harshest summers ever. Deb tried to reason out the delay in power restoration which took more than 24 hours in some places to rickety infrastructure that required time. “As several parts of the state witnessed Nor’wester and electricity poles got uprooted under the impact of strong winds, reinstalling poles and wiring conductors took time,” he said.
Senior Congress leader and former finance minister Panchanan Kanugo weighed in and said: “I do not understand whether the energy minister is working under Tata Power, or is he outside the system.”
As the minister pointed at inability of energy infrastructure to take load, power analyst Ananda Mohapatra said the estimated cumulative capital expenditure of the utility was Rs 775 crore by end of March 2023 against the Capex approval of Rs 959.92 crore by the Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC).
TPCODL has completed three years of its takeover from erstwhile state-owned CESU. The company has claimed to have invested Rs 204.84 crore in technology and infrastructure upgradation, Rs 257.47 crore to ensure reliability of power supply, Rs 103.69 crore on statutory safety measures and Rs 59.52 crore to maintain a steady load growth.
Meanwhile, the state government has approved Rs 1,796.73 crore in 2021 under Odisha Distribution System Strengthening Project (ODSSP) and another Rs 6,284 crore inclusive of Rs 2,342 crore state government contribution under revamped distribution sector scheme (RDSS) for quality and reliable power supply.
“The total repair and maintenance cost before Tata Power takeover of distribution business was around Rs 50-60 crore annually which has now gone up to over Rs 1,000 crore. The minister must explain why power infrastructure of the state is so weak despite the state government investing Rs 20,000 crore in it,” said Mohapatra.