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Discoms’ achievement unsatisfactory, admits Energy minister

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arun sahu
OST Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Oct 9:

State Energy minister Arun Sahu Tuesday admitted to private power distribution companies (discoms) achievement to be far from satisfactory in achieving objectives of technical up-gradation and infusion of necessary funds for improvement of electricity distribution in the state, forcing the government to invest in power distribution infrastructure.

“Although private sector participation was allowed in electricity distribution way back in the year 1999 to achieve the objectives of technical up-gradation and infusion of necessary funds, the achievement is far from satisfactory,” said state Energy minister Arun Sahu.

Sahu made the statement while speaking at the rolling out of the Rs 2,600 crore Odisha Distribution System Strengthening Project aimed at strengthening the power distribution network and provide seamless electricity supply across the state.

Though the four power distribution companies (discoms) of the state are working on a Rs 2,400 cr capital expenditure plan to develop distribution network, he said the government was forced to put extra investment from its kitty considering the poor financial health of the companies.

“The financial health of discoms being poor, it has become imperative for the state government to invest in power distribution infrastructure in order to provide quality power to the people of Odisha”, said Sahu while justifying the expenditure to be made by the state government.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), it may be noted, has sought information from the state government on annual accounts and annual reports of private power distribution companies (discoms) between 2008-09 and 2012-13 to scrutinize their financial condition during the period. Discoms have been claiming steep aggregate technical & commercial (AT & C) losses touching nearly 40%.

Besides the annual accounts, the office of the CAG, which is conducting a thematic audit on ‘distribution sector and AT&C loss’, has also sought information agenda papers and minutes of meetings of the board of directors of the discoms for the same period and monitoring activities of the Energy department in respect of these companies.

The AG, Odisha had asked the power distribution companies to submit the required information on June 18. But since they have not bothered to respond yet, the CAG has now sought the information from the state government.

The project plans to set up 500 power substations in three phases to improve distribution of electricity while reducing transmission losses. In the first phase, 178 sub-stations with 33 and 11kv capacity will be established. A tender in this connection has been already floated by the Energy department on September25.

“The project will be implemented in a phased manner within the next three years. In the first phase, 178 sub-stations will be constructed and this will be followed by 165 sub-stations in the second phase. The balance 150 will be installed in the last phase,” said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik while inaugurating the project on Tuesday.

“The project shall cover all the 30 districts with priority focus on the rural and semi-urban areas,” he added.

For 2013-14, the state government has sanctioned an amount of Rs 100 crore for setting up of new substations and laying cable lines. The funds will be released in small installments within a span of three years.

Outlining the salient features of the project, Patnaik said improved power supply, after the establishment of the substations, will pave the way for industrial and agricultural growth and improve the quality of essential services.

The state Energy department has also initiated steps to lay underground cables in important areas such as Puri temple, Lingaraj Temple and Samaleswari temple, informed the Energy minister.