Summer sparks boom in generator sale

New Delhi, June 3:

The fear of power cuts soars when sweltering summer heat arrives in India, spurring demand for generators as electricity-starved residents increasingly produce their own power.

Except for VIPs in official bungalows, everyone from stall-holders to former ambassadors are hit by the power outages, and those who can afford it are increasingly making alternative arrangements.

The shopkeepers at New Delhi’s popular Janpath tourist bazaar are a case in point, as all now have por-table petrol generators. Wh-en the power fails, sometimes for hours on end, the road becomes a thicket of cables and a cacophony of chugging machines.

“Business people cannot sell without light,” said Sa-tinder Grover, who runs a traditional Indian shoe sto-re. “Power is a necessary ite-m, the goverment must ta-ke care.”

The government says gap between electricity supply and demand nationwide averages up to 14 per cent at peak times. Even so not everybody gets power — only 44 per cent of rural Indian households have access to grid electricity.

Business body Assocham predicts generator sales will jump more than 20 per cent this summer. Private generators currently supply 25, 000 megawatts (MW), power ministry estimates, equal to 20 per cent of India’s grid power. It is no longer just businesses that invest in large generators - househo-lds are increasingly turning to private power sources.

In May, former Indian diplomats installed back-up diesel generators at their east Delhi retirement complex, built two decades ago. “At that time maybe there was an expectation things would get better,” said Kalarickal Pranchu Fabian, a former ambassador, who now heads the complex’s management committee.

“Over the years people have become less convinced they could expect an improvement in the immediate future,” said Kalarickal, who estimated that the complex suffered 300 hours of outages last year.

About 150 families signed up for back-up power sche-me, each contributing up to $1,190. The generator power will cost almost Rs 10 Indian currency a unit, twice that of grid power. But this summer residents of the complex will not have to worry about whether they can use their air-conditioners when temperatures pass 40 degrees Celsius.

There just isn’t enough power to go around, says Shubhra Puri, editor of electricity magazine ‘Power Line’. India has about 600 KW-hours of electricity per capita.

“We are so power-st-arved that no matter whatever little management jugglery they do, there is going to be a blackout,” said Puri.