MeECL reaches critical point; consumers feel cheated

State reeling under unprecedented power cuts

As rains continue to elude the ‘Abode of Clouds’ the Umium Lake dries up with the water level at the reservoir recorded at 3169.54 feet, one of the lowest levels, on Wednesday. (UB)

Shillong: From Wednesday the MeECL has resorted to a seven-hour load shedding schedule in the city with timings varying from locality to locality.
A senior Government official said the load shedding is necessary since the State has reached a critical point as far as power generation is concerned. The Government owes different Central Power Corporations over Rs. 473 crore and the more power is purchased the more the debts pile up.
When asked what happened to the tall claims that Meghalaya is capable of generating 3000 MW of power – a claim repeatedly made for the past 30 years, the official said, “These are long-term decisions that the State should have taken much earlier. Until the early 90’s we were a power surplus State but unregulated growth of industries has led to high power consumption without much benefit to the State.”
The corporatisation of MeECL came in after the New Electricity Act made it mandatory in 2007. But this only means that the Corporation was bifurcated into three separate units for generation, transmission and distribution.
A senior technician of the MeECL said, “The manner in which MeECL is managed continues to be highly bureaucratic with the Chief Secretary as Chairman. MeECL needs a full time CEO who is both a management and financial expert, not a bureaucrat. This only shows that the State Government is unwilling to let go and to continue to control the Corporation.”
The senior government official also added that Meghalaya’s population has grown and so too the demand for consumption. When asked if it is not the brief of the Government to anticipate such growth, he said that the Leshka Project was the answer to that demand.
“Unfortunately Leshka is mired in corruption and inefficiency. Its gestation period is far too long and the cost escalation so heavy that it would make Meghalaya break the record for being the State where power production is the costliest ever,” quipped the official.
Other senior technicians and government officials said MeECL is a dead horse. It is useless flogging it. With this sort of statement coming from those in charge of power generation, transmission and distribution, Meghalaya is entering a very dark phase indeed.
Meanwhile a number of consumers spoken to said the power tariff should have been hiked incrementally over the years but successive governments did not have the political nerve to do so. “Now we have reached a critical point as far as power  (Contd on P-10)

MeECL reaches critical…
(Contd from P-1) availability is concerned and the Government has no answer except to express its helplessness”, an irate consumer said.
Others have questioned the series of power deals signed by the present Chief Minister Mukul Sangma in 2007 before the Assembly elections and asked what happened to those deals.
Indeed these are questions that some citizen’s body should be putting to those who should be having the answers.
What has put the residents of Shillong in a bigger trouble is that they have not been intimated about the load shedding schedules in different localities, with power cuts occurring at any time of the day.
Right now the MeECL on an average is supplying 160 MW, but the total demand throughout the State is much higher. The MeECL on its own produces around 24 MW while the State is getting around 135 MW of power from other states via inter-state grids.
MeECL had been compelled to resort to load shedding due to acute shortage of power and the rapid depletion of water at the hydro electric reservoirs of the State due to less rain, an official of MeECL admitted.
The extension of the load shedding period is set to cause miseries for people in this hot and humid weather which is being witnessed in Shillong. There has been a spurt in theft cases in the city as criminals are indulging in theft by taking advantage of the load shedding during night hours.
An official of the MeECL, on Wednesday, admitted that the Corporation has no option other than resorting to additional load shedding as all the reservoirs have either dried up or are on the verge of drying up.
The much-hyped Myntdu Leshka Hydro Power project is currently producing around 6 MW of power on an average as there is no water in the catchment.
MeECL engineer Elias Lyngdoh said that the MeECL is collecting water for few days to produce atleast some amount of power every day from the project.
The Umiam reservoir is also producing around 7 MW on an average, he said.
What has further aggravated the situation is that MeECL is not even in a position to purchase additional power from private grids as the Corporation has a whopping Rs. 473 crore unpaid power dues.
As on February 28 this year the pending dues of MeECL was Rs 473.85 crore and the dues against power purchase from NEEPCO was the highest – Rs. 363.64 crore. The approximate monthly power bill against power purchase is about Rs. 34.73 crore.