Goa must set up a power distribution company
Though Goa claims to be providing power 24×7 to industry, the supply remains inadequate, erratic and lacking in quality. Factories located in industrial estates face outages and load shedding as a routine throughout the year. The problems become more acute during summer months when the power department resorts to load shedding running into hours during peak hours to meet domestic demands as well as demands of hospitality businesses. The industry’s complaint is that the electricity department is unable to handle the demand for higher load on transmission and distribution lines during summer. The piecemeal measures taken up by the electricity department have only resulted in a huge backlog and complication. The demand for power has been rising from various sectors in the state. More than half the power supply is consumed by the industries and the demand is growing.
Goa does not produce power on its own and has been depending on central allocation of 477 MW. As power requirement is in excess of central allocation the state buys more power from different sources. The peak hour demand in Goa is put at 644 MW. Apart from the dependence on power import and loss in interstate transmission Goa’s power woes could also be attributed to poor and ageing distribution infrastructure which can cause power tripping. Chief Electrical Engineer Reshma Mathew acknowledges that the existing distribution infrastructure was not capable of handling the growing power demand.
Goa is the fourth state selected for ‘24×7 Power for All’ (PFA) programme which was to be completed in four years. Though the PFA programme was launched in 2016, not much progress appears to have been made to provide round-the-clock and quality power supply to domestic, industrial and commercial users. The state authorities have often promised to upgrade the power supply infrastructure but have failed to keep their promise. The industrialists have been complaining that they were the casualty of any increase in demand for power and that the supply to their establishments is first to be affected. Except for few pockets in the state, power is supplied through overhead conductors which cause tripping due to falling of branches, trees and mischief. Though the authorities have been talking of laying underground cables for power supply in a phased manner not much headway has been made and only a few stretches have got it. Once underground cabling is done, a lot of problems would be over. A major hurdle in going in for underground cabling is believed to be lack of funds. The government should seek the assistance of the central government or international agencies such as the World Bank, as they did for water supply by utilizing funds from JICA. The other hurdle in completing underground cabling could be opposition by local people. There has been opposition to drawing of overhead power lines in certain areas. Ministers and MLAs should use their offices to persuade people to cooperate in drawing of power lines as consistent quality power supply is important for economic growth, creation of jobs, ease of living and public revenue.
The state government is pushing for development for job creation. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant says his government’s focus is on creating 40,000 to 50,000 jobs during the remainder of its term. However, to facilitate investments and create jobs the work of the Goa Investment Promotion and Facilitation Board is not going to be enough. Adequate, uninterrupted and quality power supply is absolutely necessary for that to happen. Goa does not have problems about getting power supply. It has problems in distribution. The distribution infrastructure is poor and will remain poor because by the time one aged or substandard component is replaced the others fail and cry for replacement. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant must take steps to get a power distribution company (Discom) established to take care of power distribution. Many states have got discoms to handle their power distribution. The state can decide which model will suit it best: a public-private model or a wholly private sector model. Complaints from commercial and residential consumers will disappear once distribution is done flawlessly.