The promoters of 540 megawatt (2 units each of 270 megawatt) thermal power plant at Goindwal Sahib which is awaiting commercial operations for the past six months for want of coal now see a hope in the Punjab government.
Subsequent to a request by GVK Powers and Infrastructure Limited, which has built the project, to the state government, the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) is expected to take up the project on lease basis.
The coal for the project will come from PSPCL-owned Pachwara coal block in Jharkhand. The state power corporation may have objections but the political leadership in the state has told it to study the feasibility and run the plant.
According to sources, the political leadership in the state wants to run the project before the parliamentary elections of 2014. The plant which was to be commissioned in March this year has been delayed as GVK that was allocated the coal block in Tokisud in Jharkhand failed to develop the mine on time.
"The coal mine will come into operation not before July 2014, and till that time the plant will remain non-functional in case no alternative is found," said a GVK official, confirming that possibilities were being explored of the PSPCL running the plant on lease basis and a proposal had been sent to the PSPCL and the state government.
GVK Raddy, chairman-cum-managing director, had met chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who holds the charge of the power department in March 2012 and raised the issue of non-availability of coal.
PSPCL, formerly Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), was allocated the Pachwara coal block in Pakur district in Jharkhand. The mine is in operation since 2006 by PANEM Coal Mines Limited, a joint venture of the PSPCL and EMTA Coal Limited, Kolkata. Sixty per cent of the coal requirement of the three thermal plants of Punjab (Bathinda, Ropar and Lehra Mohabbat) is being met by PANEM and 40% comes from Coal India Limited. PSPCL is of the contention that in case the coal from PANEM is supplied to the Goindwal thermal plant, the operation at the state-owned thermal plants would suffer.
GVK is left with the option of giving its plant on lease to the state government as all other alternatives have failed to yield results. Coal India has refused to give coal on loan to GVK taking the plea that GVK was allotted the coal mine on time.
Buying coal from the Punjab government was also not possible as the union coal ministry would not permit the transfer of coal to another mine. The Goindwal plant has been designed in such a way that it can't run entirely on imported coal.
In 2,000, the PSEB had signed the deal with GVK for the Goindwal Sahib thermal power project which was conceived in 1994, but the project could not take off for want of coal.
In 2002, GVK tied up with Eastern India Coal but signed no fuel-supply agreement, as the landing cost was high. In 2008, the project was revived and the deal renegotiated.
After a fresh power-purchase agreement between the PSPCL and the promoter, the construction began in 2010. In March last year, it was announced that the first unit would get into operation in March 2013, but it missed the deadline.