In the far north of Bengaluru, small industrialists in the Peenya manufacturing hub fear the ugly prospect of regular power cuts and surging tariffs impacting their already-strained bottom line.

Due to the scanty rains and failure of the southwest monsoon, the State has been unable to keep up with the rising power demand. Karnataka is realising an unexpected demand of more than 15,000 MW in October 2023. On a daily basis, it is facing a  shortfall of 40-50 million units (MU). 

While the monsoon was moderately active in the last two weeks of July this year, there was a considerable shortage of rainfall throughout August and September, with the exception of a few sporadic showers. This has resulted in low storage in major hydro dams, and the energy available for the current year is deficient less by approximately 3,000 MU. 

RE generation down

The woes are further worsened as the renewable energy (RE) generation — wind and solar — has reduced considerably. Wind generation decreased from 53.63 MU on October 1 to 9.44 MU on October 6. Additionally, heavy rains at coal mines supplying the State’s thermal power plants have led to the coal getting wet , causing frequent plant breakdowns. All the adverse circumstances have led to an acute shortage of approximately 1,500-2,000 MW.

The power deficit is now a rising problem in the State as farmers rue the lack of irrigation pumps and industrialists fear frequent power cuts and tariff increases. Shivakumar, President of Peenya Industrial Association rues, “We are already seeing initial power disconnections for short durations of 10-20 minutes. If the deficit situation invokes the need to purchase power, we fear the power tariffs will be hiked again. This will dent our revenues and profits significantly and even lead to the shutdown of some companies.” 

As apprehensions arise, the State government is taking various measures to reduce the shortage. Gaurav Gupta, Additional Chief Secretary, Energy Department, said that the government will participate in active bidding to purchase power through the day ahead market (DAM) and the real-time market (RTM). 

The State will also be negotiating for swapping of power from UP and Punjab. Proposals are also being made to procure power through short-term term tender to the extent of 1,250 MW power on an RTC basis and 250 MW on RTM as and when required. Additionally, officers have been appointed for each district to closely monitor the power supply and ensure that equitable power supply across the State, he added. 

Plea to Centre

KJ George, Minister of Energy, is also trying to get a helping hand from the Centre. He met with the Minister for Power, New and Renewable Energy, GOI, RK Singh, and has requested to support Karnataka’s need for additional power through higher share in Central generating stations.

Even as the State government leaves no stone unturned, the party’s free electricity scheme — 200 units per household — which is also driving the demand up has brought CM Siddaramaiah’s new regime under scrutiny. Just months ahead of Lok Sabha polls, this has given political fodder to opposition parties — BJP and JDS— to question the government’s competence and financial management. 

MG Mahesh, BJP spokesperson said, “Karnataka will descend into darkness after Navratri. Already 34 lakh agriculture pump sets are not working, and the government is not even able to give three hours of power to the farmers. As the party is spending money on providing freebies, it is not even able to purchase coal.” The Siddaramaiah government has only resorted to blaming the Centre, and if it was financially prudent it would have been able to solve the crisis on its own, he added.  

Similarly, JDS’s former CM, HD Kumaraswamy on X criticised the Energy Department for the power outage the State was experiencing and said, “The crops are drying up because there isn’t enough electricity in all the State’s districts. The borewells cannot be used to pump water from the canals since there is no electricity. Farmers who are already struggling are being burdened further by the Congress government.”