Mon, 27 May, 2019

Industry stakeholders feel powerless for want of quality power

Last summer industries in Goa complained they had lost 25% of their output due to power cuts. They had expectations that the government would improve the situation, but, unfortunately, the ground reality hasn’t changed

22nd April 2019, 03:20 Hrs

KARAN SEHGAL   

Last summer and monsoon were particularly bad for industries in the State as they faced severe power cuts and voltage fluctuations. The then Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar was ailing and the industrialists really did not know who to turn to in order to explain their problems.   

In the second half of 2018, the government appointed Nilesh Cabral as the Power Minister, and there were expectations that power supply for the industries would improve. However, nothing has improved compared to previous summer.  

N Sriram, Director of Tulip Group of Companies, said, “There has been no improvement in power supply this summer compared to previous year. Power cuts and voltage fluctuations have severely hampered our productivity.”   

Sriram continued, “We need dry RH (which is a measure of relative humidity) for our manufacturing process. We have dehumidifiers for keeping the humidity very low, but we need power for that. If power goes off for even 15 minutes, we need two hours to bring humidity to the desired level.”   

Pharma is a major sector in the State as around 10% of India’s pharma exports are manufactured in Goa. A number of international and national pharma majors have presence in the State. It really brings bad reputation to the State, if such companies face issues with power supply.   

As opposed to any other industry, power cuts are a much bigger problem in the case of pharma companies. The manufacturing process in pharma companies is such that even a minute-long power cut can render an entire production batch useless. It is for such reasons that certain pharma companies have chosen other states of India for expansion and not Goa.   

A source from a pharmaceutical company, who preferred being anonymous, said, “The situation with power at Pilerne Industrial Estate is really bad. We have suffered production losses due to power cuts and voltage fluctuations. We are running on diesel generators more than 60-70% of the time.”   

He continued, “All production equipment is imported which suffers due to power issues. When power cuts happen, even if we have generators, there is production loss. This is because you have to stop production process due to power cuts and restart the whole process with the help of a generator.”   

Goa buys sufficient power from other states. The problem is with old distribution network of cables, transformers and conductors, which need to be replaced. The government will have to invest in improving the distribution of power. But, at the moment, the government is not doing much on this count.   

Damodar Kochkar, President of Verna Industrial Estate Association, said, “Both the conductors supplying power to industries in Verna need to be replaced on an urgent basis. The government has released the tender, but they have not issued the order. Due to this, power cuts and voltage fluctuations are happening.”   

Kochkar continued, “Moreover, companies don’t know when the power cuts will happen. There is a major company here, which has told the power department to inform them when power cuts are expected to happen.”   

The whole process of issuing tenders and releasing orders is so slow that it is frustrating for the industries. Some sort of administrative efficiency is required in this matter. Worse still, the electricity department does not even inform companies when power cuts are scheduled to happen, which keeps them in absolute dark. The situation in most other industrial estates is no better.   

Praveen Blaggon, President of Honda Industrial Estate Association, said, “Many industries have shut down for their own reasons in our industrial estate. But, still, we are having issues with power supply. We are facing power cuts due to technical problems. Those who have generators manage somehow. But those who can’t afford generators have to wait for power to be restored.”   

Blaggon continued, “There is absolutely no improvement in power supply this season compared to last year. There were plans to have underground cabling from Amona to Ponda, but nothing has happened in this regard.”   

The promises for underground cabling for industries have mostly remained unfulfilled. Overhead cabling is more prone to damages and disruptions. For a state like Goa, which is trying to attract investments in industrial sector, underground cabling should be priortized.   

Even when most industries are facing power issues, Mapusa Industrial Estate has emerged as an exception, as power issues are rare here and industries are happy with the quality of the power supply. Interestingly, Mapusa Industrial Estate does not have underground cabling either, but still, there are no power issues.   

Darshan Vani, President of Mapusa Industrial Estate Association, said, “We have absolutely no problem with power at all. Sometimes we get voltage fluctuations, but even that is very manageable. In fact, in recent times, we have faced no power cuts at all. We have overhead cabling and not underground cabling.”   

Perhaps, there is a lesson for electricity department in this. They should analyze how power supply has remained stable for Mapusa Industrial Estate and replicate the model for other industrial estates. All said and done, there has to be a long-term solution for perennial power problem.

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