Meghalaya to use underground power cables

Correspondent SHILLONG, DEC 3 | Publish Date: 12/3/2020 1:20:19 PM IST
The Meghalaya government would start work on converting overhead power cables to underground ones in the mountainous state capital and two other important towns of the State.
“ Underground cabling is something adopted by many countries abroad and isn’t a new concept. We have already completed underground cabling on a pilot basis in the Police Bazaar area,” Power Minister James Sangma told journalists at press conference on Thursday. He informed that the State Government would start work to have 100 per cent underground electric cables in Shillong, Tura in West Garo Hills district and Jowai in West Jaintia Hills district.
The Power Minister said that the project would be taken up considering various factors.
“Overhead electric cable apart from being an eyesore is also risky, especially during the windy seasons the wires touch each other and cause short circuits leading to power failure and also pose risk to the public,” Sangma said.
On the other hand, the power department has to periodically trim tree branches which grow near electric wires. “The power department officials have to take permission to cut these branches,” he informed, hinting to delay in work.
“We have decided that underground cabling is the solution. It reduces risk, improves the aesthetic look and the maintenance cost of such cables is also less,” he added.
The power department would also “renovate and modernize” existing dams, some of which like the Umiam dam (1957,) needs renovation.
He said that work would be completed within the next six months and a preliminary study has been done  which showed that the efficiency of these dams would improve with renovation.
The State Government has also decided to replace old wires with aerial bunched cables in rural areas in the ADB Phase-ll programme. The aerial bunched cables will be insulated and hence mitigate almost all risks and also reduce theft.
The government is also planning to upgrade 2,214 kilometre of distribution lines in the state to minimize losses and improve efficiency of electricity transmission to the houses of consumers, he added. Reacting to criticism from various circles due to the poor power scenario in the State,  Sangma claimed that there have been ‘reduced’ power-cuts ever since the National People’s Party (NPP)-led government came to power in 2018.
“A simple indicator of the current government’s success is shown by the fact that the state has been witnessing reduced power cuts ever since the NPP-led government came to power in 2018. We aspire to bring it to zero power cuts, and so far we have been  successful this year,” he said.
Maintaining that power cuts for “months at stretch” during the previous Congress-led government, especially during the winter was ‘normal’, James asserted, “We stay committed to ensuring every student studies not in the light of candles but under uninterrupted power”.
“It is necessary to be totally transparent and open with the public, as the NPP-led government believes in being answerable to the people,” he said and issued elaborate clarifications on the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded power projects in the State.
“The government managed to bring in the ADB grant worth 132.8 million dollars for the state of Meghalaya to overcome its power-related issues,” he said. However, despite the NPP-led government achieving 100 percent electrification for rural and urban households in Meghalaya, billing efficiency is only about 67.35 percent and more than 75 percent of meters are outdated,” the power minister said.
“The installation of smart meters will enhance the ease of usage for the customers. The citizens will be able to make prepaid payments from the comfort of their homes, and have access to their usage charges. This removes the need for meter readers,” Sangma pointed out.
Under the Saubhagya Scheme, Sangma said with the combined efforts of all contractors, 2,146 villages have been electrified in a record 1.5 years with all registered users covered under the scheme.
“This happened despite the stretched manpower due to the pandemic,” he said.
Revealing that the total outstanding dues as on date that industries owe to the power department is Rs 180 crore, the power minister said that the NPP- led government came up with a plan wherein the defaulting industries could save either 30 percent of their total outstanding dues or 100 percent of their delayed payment charges (DPC), whichever is higher.
“The arrangement has been undertaken to ensure that the settlements can take place in a gradual manner, for the state to recover the losses and also to ensure that industries which have been defaulting for a long time, have an incentive to pay up,” he said.
“In Meghalaya, previously not a single megawatt worth of solar power was produced. After the NPP-led government came into power, 90 megawatt worth solar power has been sanctioned and initiated. Focusing on more power generation, we will be adding 100 megawatt of solar generation in the next six months for which the tendering process is presently going on,” the power minister informed, adding that Meghalaya has received the highest sanction for this from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).

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