Powering Bihar ahead

Pratim Ranjan Bose | Updated on January 21, 2011 Published on January 21, 2011

There is nothing unique in running a thermal power unit at full capacity, but Bihar State Electricity Board (BSEB) has hardly had a power station in shape for decades. Naturally, a few months down the line when BSEB's 25-year-old defunct unit at Barauni (now under a joint venture between BSEB and NTPC) once again starts generating power — that too at full capacity — it will make news.

Prolonged neglect of its power infrastructure has left Bihar with just two de-rated, if not dilapidated, thermal units, together generating a maximum of 110 MW. The State utility has already ordered renovation and modernisation of three more 110 MW units at Barauni and Muzaffarpur on a “fast track” basis for a total consideration of Rs 1,053 crore. “We are expecting all the four units to be operational in 2011-12, increasing our generation by three times,” says BSEB Chairman, Mr P. K. Rai.

Huge shortage

Bihar has an estimated demand of nearly 2000 MW, of which, about half is met by NTPC. According to available information, 72,000 km of the transmission and distribution network in the State are defunct and most of the towns and cities, apart from Patna, practically run on diesel generators.

According to a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the per capita electricity consumption in Bihar is a mere 93 units — enough to light a 100 watt bulb for 10 hours a day for three months a year — which is around one-eighth of India's abysmal national average of 717 units.

New Initiatives

Having focussed on law-and-order and road infrastructure in the first term, the Nitish Kumar government is now turning its attention to power. Supplies are expected to improve substantially by 2012-13, when the first 660 MW unit at Barh-II project of NTPC goes on stream.

Two private developers, Adhunik group of Kolkata and the Nagpur-based Abhijeet group, are reportedly planning to set up a combined capacity of 2,640 MW in Bhagalpur region, close to the coal-bearing areas of Jharkhand. A time-bound project has been taken up to replace the entire 33 kV and 11 kV transmission lines. In a major boost to the transmission initiative, the Asian Development Bank recently promised a Rs 700-crore loan for strengthening the State grid and creating distribution logistics in seven districts.

A programme to streamline distribution logistics in 71 towns under the Centre's Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme (APDRP) will help reduce the transmission and distribution losses, currently around 40 per cent. “Bihar will have a rejuvenated power infrastructure a few years down the line,” Mr Rai promises. Hopefully his promise will come true.

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Published on January 21, 2011
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