Jammu & Kashmir has been experiencing severe energy crisis that has led to widespread load-shedding, prolonged blackouts throughout state and violent protests from the more affected citizens. The enormous debt created by subsidizing the power sector limited the state's ability to expand investment in crucial public services like health and education, rather constant and prolonged power outages disrupted business, especially major manufacturing industries, worsening state's competitiveness and reduced the employment opportunities of state populace. Despite the fact, Jammu & Kashmir is the storehouse of significant hydropower, has potential to improve the lives of residents but the power available to the state falls short of its demand. Despite the fact, that the State has huge hydroelectricity potential sufficient not only to satisfy its all energy requirements but will help to solve the power crises of other neighbouring energy deficient states. Notwithstanding the fact, both purchased as well as self-generated power fulfils just around two-third of its requirements, leaving state's power status in depression and considerably widening the gap between demand and supply. In order to fill up this growing gap, the State uses to purchase power, generated from its own water recourses, from centrally owned projects which, however, seems to be attractive ordinary to plug the gap. Nevertheless, the total demand/requirement of energy(power) is 18473MU(2800.00MW) and total restricted supply/availability of energy(power) is 14830MU(2260.00MW) from all sources which leads to 3642.60MU(540.00MW) with an annual growth rate of 19.72%MU(19.29MW%) of energy(power) deficit, which signifies that the state is facing 'energy crisis trap' which is vehemently higher than the national average has ghastly affected the productivity of the state economy and hence is augmented to increase in energy/power requirement of 21887.00MU in 2020-2022. However, on the percapita basis, power consumption has augmented to 1032.13kWh in 2015-16 to 1053.19 kWh in 2016-17 with an annual growth of 2.04% and on the basis of per capita availability of power, state of Jammu & Kashmir (1118.6kWh) is not only lagging behind the rich states of Punjab(1793.2kWh), Haryana(1871.1kWh), Delhi(1765.8 kWh); rather even neighbouring hilly states of Himachal Pradesh(1277.3kWh), Chandigarh(1523.7kWh), and Uttarakhand(1252.9kWh). Notwithstanding the fact, in order to minimize 'this(energy/power) crisis trap', the State intends to generate 118449.00MW which constitutes 1,11,000.00 MW of solar, 5,685.00 MW(8MW identified at Bidda Reasi) of Wind, 1,431.00 MW(807 MW identified from 251 projects through PDC) of Hydropower from small hydropower projects(water mills), 140.00 MW (from 90 projects through JAKEDA), 43.00 MW of biomass and 150.00 MW of geothermal till 2022 and in addition state tries to minimize the energy losses, by way of up-grading the cable transmission lines and streamlining the metering and a newly scheme launched recently HVDS(HIGH VOLTAGE DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM), which, in no doubt, demands the huge finance, as such the state has planned to spend Rs. 1665.27 crores and rupees two crores as energy efficiency fund. In Kashmir region including Ladakh the program would be implemented in 19 towns at the cost of Rs 889.56 crores while as Rs 775.71 crores has been allocated for 11 towns in Jammu region. But unfortunately nothing have been seen in progress in this regard which could have saved the state from long blackouts and energy crisis trap.
Therefore, energy crisis has dashed to ground the hopes of Jammu & Kashmir State in general and valley in particular because it has adversely affected the state economy and directly affected the large chunk of households/masses involved in the small business units. However, dancing around the fire is not the solution to any problem rather should try to see beneath the surface in order to grasp ideas about the basic issue. Deposit a stream of strong words, efforts and announcements made by the State and the centre, nothing concrete has been done to introduce a proper energy economy revival plan; rather the situation has taken a quantum leap for the worse. Therefore, in order to revive the energy sector there is an urgent need to devise a strategy so that the state economy would cope with the difficult situations (especially during winter) and regain the sheen of its normal functioning and benefit the state economy at large. Notwithstanding the fact, if there is no solution and strategy of the energy crisis but how to cope the situation within the domain (otherwise it will continuously trouble the society) is the main challenge. Therefore, in order to streamline the situation, it is humble suggestion to the state government to grab the availability and invest on the aforesaid mentioned/forecasted potential of energy(118449.00MW) so that the system will function in a systematic manner and will go a long way to help in bringing prosperity and thereby peace in the state.
Hence, the biggest challenge of power sector development in Jammu & Kashmir is the involvement of large finance. No doubt it is a herculean task but cannot stop the State from making serious efforts in finding out the ways and means to value its gifted resource, i.e., water. Given the revenue base and budgetary requirements, development levels and power scenario, the State cannot afford to just keep watching its precious resources (water) flow without making any mark on the socio-economic development of the region. There is no dearth of the financial resources in the country but it is a matter of how to mobilize it. Therefore, the State in an understanding with the Centre should devise a policy to attract the investor's attention and grab the opportunity available that will reduce the apprehension and violence in areas that are suffering from the load-shedding.
Dr. M. Ibrahim Wani is Post Doctorate Fellow, Energy Economics, CCAS, University of Kashmir