Part II | Power Shortage in J&K: The Mysterious 20%

Jammu and Kashmir: Elderly couple electrocuted in Surankote

The peak demand in J&K touched an all time high of 3400 MW in Mar 20. This means a 50% increase in peak demand in the last 10 years. The demand has seen a particularly steep increase in the last three to four years – there has been an annual increase of about 10% in demand in the last three year. This average annual increase is exceptionally high compared to annual increase percentage used in energy planning to forecast peak demand.

The peak met in Mar 20 was 20% short of the peak demand in the month. When one looks back at the figures of the monthly demand met for the past several years one cannot but observe that in each of these months also the peak met has been exactly maintained at the same level, i.e. 20% less than peak demand. Whether the peak demand has been as low as 2500 MW or as high as 3400MW, the same shortfall percentage has been consistently and religiously maintained across these years. In plain terms it means that our peak met has kept pace with the peak demand and it has increased at exactly the same rate as the peak demand while maintaining the same gap or shortfall percentage.

This shortfall has been maintained irrespective of the season given the generation from hydro power projects varies vastly between the months. As an example of this seasonal variation in energy generation, the monthly generation from our hydro power plants (both JKSPDC and NHPC together) in lean season (Nov to Feb) is a meagre 60 crore units which increases, more than three and a half times, to nearly 220 crore per month during months of high discharge in the rivers (May to Aug) but shortfall of 20% between peak demand and peak met is maintained across both the periods.

Why exactly same percentage shortfall has been maintained every month for the past several years (from Sep 16), despite huge increase in the demand in these years, is both interesting and intriguing.

From time to time consumers have been fed stories that the transmission network within the erstwhile state, and in particular in Kashmir valley, was not adequate to carry our peak demand and that the government was augmenting the transmission circuits to cater to the demand. While one is not disputing that part of the narrative, the question that comes to one’s mind is that if the existing transmission network could safely carry 2750 MW load, i.e. the peak met in Mar 20, why was not this figure of the peak met not maintained throughout the whole year.

Let us look in a little more detail at any one year, say 2019-20. If peak met in Mar 20 had been maintained throughout the said year, there would have been a few months without any load shedding at all, some months with load shedding of less than 5% and there would have been only 4 months which would have witnessed shortfall in excess of 10%. The overall shortfall for the year would still have been a fraction of the current shortfall.

One wonders how and why the percentage shortfall is being maintained at exactly 20%, month on month and year on year for the past several years. In whose interest, and it would be good to know what that interest is, is it to keep us energy starved.

One explanation that comes to one’s mind is connected with our huge energy losses – whether commercial, transmission or distribution. Since J&K has the distinction of having the highest transmission, distribution and commercial losses in India, it might be that the government has consciously decided that the peak met should be restricted and that it should never match the peak demand so as to minimize its losses. Otherwise, there does not seems to be any explanation for this mysterious 20% figure.