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Consumers could face long power outages in the coming days as a deficient monsoon and sweltering heat in most parts of the country have raised electricity demand while state run power generators are threatening to cut off supplies to distribution companies (discoms) unless they pay up Rs 20,000-crore outstanding bills.
As nearly 80 per cent of the dues are owed by northern and eastern utilities, states like Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand may face maximum shortage of electricity.
"Dues are expected to mount as the country has been facing large agriculture demand as monsoon rains have not been adequate," a senior power sector official said on condition of anonymity. "In the absence of adequate rains, farmers need power to irrigate their land. In fact, power demand touched 1.5 lakh mega watt last week."
The official said electricity supply to farmers is either free or heavily subsidised and suppliers are forced to cater to this demand, it being a politically-sensitive issue. "But payments to the power generators becomes uncertain because the utilities mostly do not have the money to pay this bill. In turn, utilities reduce power supplies to metros, cities and towns in a bid to manage reduced power supply from generators," the official said.
Citing Delhi as an example, the official said two of the three power utilities in the city—BSES Rajdhani Power and BSES Yamuna Power—have outstanding dues of about Rs 1,600 crore. They owe this money to central power generators such as National Hydro Power Corporation, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam, Tehri Hydro Development Corporation, Nuclear Power Corporation of India and Power Grid Corporation of India
According to Central Electricity Authority data, BSES Rajdhani Power owed Rs 650 crore to power generators and suppliers until June this year, while BSES Yamuna Power owed at least Rs 710 crore. "The Delhi government is not too keen on allowing substantial increase in tariff, which has resulted in mounting dues. Power generators supplying to Delhi may not be too keen on supplying adequate electricity to the utilities there," another power sector official said.
Dues of power distributors in J&K are over Rs 2,700 crore while Rajasthan-based utilities owe about Rs 1,000 crore to generators.
Among the power generators, Damodar Valley Corporation has the biggest outstanding dues of Rs 8,769 crore and Jharkhand is the biggest defaulter. "We have been limiting power supplies to the state to pressurise them to pay up," a DVC executive said.
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