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2012 roundup: Grid failures, fuel scarcity spelt gloom for power sector

PTI     December 25, 2012
Fluctuating between hope of fuel supplies and despair of prolonged grid failures, it was mostly a gloomy year for the power sector in 2012, but it is looking forward to brighter days ahead under a new and young minister.

Persisting fuel scarcity, inter-ministerial turf wars and bleeding distribution companies roiled the sector this year, in addition to the ignominy of witnessing one of the world's worst electricity grid failures that took place in July.

Amid sufferings of common man and businesses alike, the country saw change of guard at the Power Ministry twice. While Sushilkumar Shinde made way for Veerappa Moily as grids snapped across the country, Moily was also soon replaced by young Jyotiraditya Scindia in a major cabinet reshuffle.

Scindia has his plate full of woes, but his initial days hold out promise for the jittery sector.

As another year dawns, Indian power sector would look for better times, just like the projects awaiting adequate fuel supplies.

A few silver linings during 2012 were a proposed Rs 1.9 lakh crore debt restructuring package for ailing discoms and fast-paced efforts to set up islanding system for power transmission in the national capital.

This was despite the year beginning with a promise of reform for power, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and top Indian industrialists the likes of Tatas and Ambanis, deliberated on ways to rejuvenate the sector.

Notwithstanding a flurry of meetings and committees, coal still remains as scarce as electricity is for unlit villages.

On July 30, Northern transmission grid snapped and paralysed normal life in eight states, including the national capital, for over 15 hours. More shock was in store the next day when over half of the country's population spread across 21 states went without electricity as northern, eastern and north-eastern grids failed.

A high level panel got into the act to identity the cause, which was primarily indiscipline on the part of some states that led to overdrawal of power from the grid.

Incidentally, the second day of grid failure also saw the then Power Minister Shinde moving to the Home Ministry.

The grid failure raised serious questions about Power Ministry's ability to ensure discipline among states, when it comes to drawing of electricity from the grid. Even concerns about overall national security, in the context of electricity grids came to the fore.

The short stint of Moily saw setting up of various committees and a slew of meeting with states as well as private players.

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