The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) has sought to kick-start the practice of auditing fuel consumption at state-run thermal power generation plants in the country. As a pilot project, the commission got the fuel audit of thermal plants run by the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) conducted through Bangalore-based Central Power Research Institute (CPRI) in January 2012.
The report -- submitted on August 13, and pending for comments from the public, government and the PSPCL before implementation orders slated for September 14 - says proper use of fuel can save the PSPCL over Rs 300 crore a year at its plants at Ropar, Lehra Mohabbat and Bathinda.
The state power corporations have been passing heavy losses incurred due to inefficient use of fuel on to the consumers, but the PSERC has now made it clear that it would not permit a hike in tariff to recover these losses caused due to absence of a proper, regular fuel audit. It is learnt that the PSERC has, therefore, already made a provision of Rs 8.58 crore for fuel audit as capital expenditure in its tariff order for 2012-13.
As per the pilot report, the PSPCL can cut expenses by Rs 317 crore annually by making the Rs 8.58-crore investment to improve the system to know the gross calorific value (GCV) of coal. Payments to coal companies are to be made on the basis of GCV of coal.
PSPCL director (generation) GS Chhabra said, "There are some suggestions which are acceptable to us and are in process of implementation, but there are some reservations also which we have reported in our reply to the PSERC." Asked about the reservations, Chhabra said it was related to the system adopted by CPRI for fuel audit.
The PSERC is fixing the loss of GCV of coal received and coal fired at 150 kilocalories (kcal) against an average loss of 900 kcal being recorded earlier.
The modern measurement equipment for coal sampling would help check the loss of over Rs 300 crore. The PSPCL has already started implementing this at its thermal stations. "The coal companies supplying coal to PSPCL are also feeling the heat of these checks and their undue profits have been reduced," revealed an official of the PSPCL.
The gross calorific value would now be measured at the mine, upon the coal reaching PSPCL thermal plants, and again at the outlet of the bunker containing crushed coal just before firing it into the boiler.
Across the world
While in advanced countries, fuel audit is a regular feature, none of the electricity regulatory commissions in India ever conducted audit of fuel used to produce power at thermal plants in the public sector, the private sector, and a number of them run by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC).
Suggestion to national body
The PSERC has sent its pilot fuel audit report of PSPCL plants to the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), requesting it to conduct fuel audit of NTPC thermal power plants. As per an estimate by the PSERC, such an audit, and resultant efficiency mechanisms, could lead to nationwide saving of Rs 6,000-8,000 crore. Other regulatory commissions in the country are expected to follow the practice; it is learnt that the Bihar commission chairman is visiting Chandigarh shortly to discuss the audit system.