Politicisation Of Energy Security Of Goa

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The power that people are using in Goa is supplied from western and southern power grids. These high voltage linear networks pass through forested landscapes

Nandkumar M Kamat

If at all there needs to be a debate and politics then it should have been on this document ‘24 x 7 Power For All’, Goa, a joint initiative of Government of India and Government of Goa (November 2015) available at http://goaelectricity.gov.in/Regulations/24by7Goa.pdf. Apart from some sound logical technical solutions in the power sector, there is nothing much new in this document on making Goa self reliant in long term energy security. The Techno economic report by NCAER , 1963-4  had  looked at Dudhsagar waterfall as one of the possible sources to generate clean hydel power. But it would take at least a decade for Goa to be self-reliant in energy security by resorting to micro and mini hydroelectric, solar, wind, ocean thermal and biofuel based alternate sources or adopting improved technologies from natural gas fired power generation using existing NG supply from GAIL.

By not seriously following the action on NHPC technical reports, Goa lost the opportunity to generate 56 MW power from 11 micro-hydel projects in the Mahadayi river basin. The politicisation of the issue of energy security of Goa has diverted people’s attention from existing supply networks and studies of future power requirements already available since 2015. The then secretary Power, Goa, mentioned in above cited November 2015 report- “It is envisaged to cover the entire state under PFA programme in a phased manner and provide 24×7 power supply to all domestic, agriculture industrial and commercial consumers for all connected households from FY 16 itself.  The joint Secretary, minister of Power, Government Of India had  mentioned- “Goa is the fourth state in the country selected for ‘24×7 Power for All’ (PFA) programme. This programme will be implemented by the Government of Goa with active support from the Government of India with the objective to ensure 24×7 quality, reliable and affordable power supply to all Domestic, Commercial Agriculture and Industrial consumers within a fixed time frame. Government of Goa would ensure that all the necessary steps outlined in the PFA document are taken up in terms of power procurement, strengthening the required transmission and distribution network, encouraging  renewable, energy efficiency measures, undertaking customer centric initiatives, reduction of AT & C losses, bridging the gap between ACS & ARR, and following good governance practices in implementation of all central and state government schemes.” This was precisely five years ago and therefore there is no merit in politicizing an issue of consolidating the existing power supply infrastructure. With runaway urbanization, rapidly rising demand for power in domestic, industrial and agricultural sectors, proliferation of power consuming gadgets such as laptops, mobiles and tablets, fancy electric illumination, sound systems, water heaters and geysers, near saturation installations of air-conditioners and refrigerators in urban areas, Goa cannot lose any more time in ensuring the energy security to avoid long ‘black outs’ and a dangerous paralyzing power famine.

Whether overground or underground the power transmission infrastructure would always be linear anywhere in the world and if you are already an electricity consumer benefitting from supply from such a linear network then there is no need to paint it in the red. Actually as consumers of electricity from coal fired power plants we are all morally responsible for contributions to greenhouse gases, global warming and climate change. But when the power fails at night and I lose my sleep and find that my blood pressure has shot up in the morning due to sleep deprivation then I stop thinking about global warming and climate change and my own contribution to rise in my carbon footprint. But if I get good sleep due to reliable power supply then I can plant and nurse several trees in my garden to fix atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and thus neutralize my carbon footprint. Everything depends on my own action to neutralize whatever damage I cause as an energy consumer. The government would focus only on supply side management and won’t tell me anything on the demand side or advise me on extravagant use of power.

Are people opposing new high tension power transmission lines through forests not aware about the existing high voltage conductors through the forests? As you travel along the full length and breadth of the Western Ghats from the catchment of the Koyna dam in Maharashtra to Kanyakumari you can see huge metallic pylons -the energy highways of southwestern India crisscrossing and traversing green hills, mountaintops, cliffs, valleys and thick forests from the Deccan plateau emerging westwards, on the other side on coastal plains and you wonder about the risks involved in their construction and maintenance.

Who reads the stories of bravery of the electric linesmen risking their lives to restore these high tension cables damaged during cyclones or earthquakes? And who would study the contribution of such long linear manmade aerial corridors in landscape ecology to benefit the local and migratory avifauna? Thousands of local and migratory birds in transit are found to perch on these shining cables thus providing them a temporary relief in their long journeys. In fact, elsewhere outside the thick forests the overhead electric conductors close to vegetation are highly preferred by birds like crows, starlings and hundreds of other avian species.

The power that people are using in Goa is supplied from western and southern power grids. These high voltage linear networks pass through forested landscapes. In designing the linear power transmission networks it makes perfect common sense to choose the shortest and the most optimal routes between two points to wheel the power. From charging mobiles, laptops to now the electric vehicles and running pumps on farms and sumps for private buildings – electricity supply has become a necessity. The central and state government with the support of power consumers must do everything before Goa reaches a critical stage of prolonged grid collapse, power interruption and rolling shutdowns.

In fact, in November 2015 itself we were assured- “The state is already supplying 24 hours of power to all its consumers, except for few load restrictions due to supply constraints. However, with a planned additional link connecting South Goa to the Western Grid, the state will not have to resort to load restrictions and it can source additional power from Western Grid in case of any shortage from Southern Grid.” The Government must boldly implement such solutions based on load flow study and accordingly strengthen infrastructure like the proposed new 400 KV substation at Xeldem and complete the full project of associated transmission lines. It is shocking that diversionary politics has already delayed the implementation of the 2015 report thus seriously compromising the energy security of 16 lakh people.