Upcoming electricity crisis and a potential solution

Autumn bounties, wonderful winter and electricity woes - a socio-economic reminder
A woman cooks even as she holds candle with other hand amid absence of electricity. [Image for representational purpose only]
A woman cooks even as she holds candle with other hand amid absence of electricity. [Image for representational purpose only] File: Mubashir Khan/ GK

BY DHAAR MEHAK M. and ATHAR A BHAT

As autumn is filling our hearts and rooms with its bounties, in all thankfulness we must remember that this is a knell to the winter. The season of winter is steadily approaching and each bountiful passing day of autumn brings us closer and closer to the cold and freezing days.

Nothing matches the beauty of Kashmir in winter and at the same time there indeed are unparalleled sufferings faced by the common people. Talking in terms of statistics, 72.62% of Kashmir’s population resides in rural areas.

As the majority of people are up-keeping and breathing in the countryside, the proportion of masses having less access to basic amenities is larger as compared to the people using the same in urban areas.

One of the very fundamental and persistent problems in the region of Kashmir has been the ironic shortage of electricity. And especially the frequent ‘burning’ of the transformers in every second locality.

Despite huge potential of hydro-power electricity generation, Kashmir throughout its rural and urban pockets is faced with the grave problem of electricity shortage.

This problem is even so more troublesome during winters and in the dipping temperature. Ironically the estimated hydro-power potential of Jammu and Kashmir is 20,000 Megawatts (MW).

This comprises 11,283 MW in Chenab basin, 3,084 MW in Jhelum basin, 500 MW in Ravi Basin and 1608 MW in Indus basin. On the contrary, only 3,263.46 MW, which is about 20% of the identified potential of 16,475 MW is currently being generated.

About 16% of the estimated potential of 20,000 MW has been gainfully exploited until now. As the energy demand has been growing gradually creating a wider demand-supply gap the pressing need in the region for the further exploration of this resource has been mounting.

The pattern of electricity demand and use across the region is nowhere close to the actual allotment by the department. An end to this persistent inconvenience faced by masses might not be an easy task to attain.

However, to every problem there is a bunch of solutions looming just around! Since, a novel solution can’t be proposed, found or discovered at the very dawn of the approaching winter; we attempted to find a minimax solution by observing the behaviour of some women in order to analyse their psyche in light of the electricity accessibility, uses and outcomes.

Most of the utility that women tend to derive from electricity is through the cooking chores. Women especially from our average households try their best to save every ounce of cooking gas and instead wait for the moments and seconds to do bits and pieces of cooking using the celebrated ‘heaters’ that run on the ‘Imran’ heating coil! The average power consumption of one such coil is 2000W.

These coils/heating elements work on the basic principle of ‘resistance’. If we are to increase the heating capacity of the resistor, we simply increase the length of the element, the roots of which can be traced to a simple law of physics called as the ‘law of resistance’.

In winters due to low voltage, this law of physics is put into practice by almost every household and we tend to witness a surge in power consumption of the same element consuming 2000W in summer to 3000W in winter.

In summers when there is ample amount of electricity available for long durations of time, women feel that they are left with an open choice to cook food as per their convenience.

Psychologically, they are aware of the fact that the food preparations they wish to complete can be done throughout the day. No scarcity of this basic necessity is felt during the summer’s time.

This feeling of plenty ends up in a proper rationalization of the electricity resource in the households. If in a neighbourhood one lady decides to cook in the morning, other one may choose the forenoon shift as per her convenience and some other would be comfortable in the evening! This ends up turning into an unintentional yet effective load sharing and distribution with the main outcome being no or negligible transformer damage in summers.

Quite contrary, in the other and harsher half of the year where Kashmir tends to chill and freeze, the ladies of the household are put into distress by extended and extensive power-cuts. Over little time this translates into a major problem concerning a number of stakeholders at small and large levels.

For the little time electricity is supplied and each household is put on a red-alert to get all the chores done due in the fraction of time. The pressure to prepare food faster, warm the water of all the geysers and boilers, heat the rooms and tasks like that are simultaneously carried out.

The pressure on the lines and transformers increases multiple times. And the eventual end comes in the form of bursting and dead transformers waiting for the hydra cranes to lift them in trucks and carry them to service stations.

Quoting the latest available census data of 2011 there are 6553 villages in Jammu and Kashmir. During the year 2016 there were a total of 51919 distribution transformers in the perimeter of PDD ( a government operated department which is responsible for transmission and distribution of electricity within J&K ) of which around 13000 transfers get damaged every year which account to almost 25% of the total.

Assuming the bare minimum cost to repair one such damage is mere 50 thousand, these accounts to an annual loss of over 650 million rupees to the department excluding current inflation and growth of the circumference. For the year 2020 PDD had a revenue deficit of over 3600 crore.

After the two are clubbed, the figures generated are worrisome and hence the department needs to put a strict vigil on how to curb the loss. Both, people and the department need to take part in correcting the failure. On a micro level every household must consume electricity as per the guidelines.

The department on the other hand is left with two open options to choose from. One among them is to curb the theft which seems an impossible goal for now and the second yet more practical is to make the electricity more available to people in winters so that they get to choose from varied time zones to turn on the switch leaving a scope for load distribution and hence negligible transformer damages…

(The Authors are affiliated with the Department of Economics, Islamic University of Science & Technology Awantipora)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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