The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has decided to buy imported coal to run its thermal plants.
The coal supplier, Panem, had curtailed the supplies while demanding an increased price, forcing to power corporation to resort to load-shedding.
The move will burden the consumers by Rs. 500 crore to Rs. 700 crore as the imported coal is costlier. The cost of fuel variation is always passed on to consumer by imposing fuel surcharge.
The memorandum put in the board of directors (BoD) admits the decision will increase the cost of generating electricity.
Instead of resolving the matter with Panem, a case was put up before the BoD of the PSPCL to buy imported coal and it was approved.
The PSPCL has taken the decision despite knowing well that the former Punjab State Electricity Board had a bitter experience as it had discontinued the import of coal supplies in 2006.
According to the memorandum, the PSPCL BoD has approved buying of 1.2 million metric tonne of coal costing Rs. 9,300 per metric tonne with an overall cost of Rs. 1,100 crore. The imported coal will have 6,300 Kcal (per kg) gross calorific value (GCV). It’s higher than the coal being used by the PSPCL at present, which has 4,000 Kcal (per kg) and costs Rs. 3,700 per metric tonne.
The coal is almost two times costlier when we compare it with the GCV, but we have to bite the bullet to check the blackmailing by the Indian coal supplier, said a BOD member, adding that ultimately it was the consumer who would suffer.
The decision will have technical ramifications as the PSPCL plants run on coal having up to 4,000 KCV of coal. Thus, the PSPCL has to blend the imported coal with Indian coal to adjust its calorific value. “The PSPCL will blend the Indian coal and the imported coal in the ratio of 82 and 18 to run the plants,” a BOD member said, adding that it would increase the power generation cost by 50 to 60 paise per unit, which would be borne by the consumer.
Panem has curtailed supplies to the PSPCL by 50 percent this year, leading to a coal crisis.
Panem holds the contract for operating the PSPCL’s captive coal mine in Jharkhand. The company has already invoked arbitration proceedings against the PSPCL, demanding higher coal rates.
However, the decision to import coal has to be cleared by the power regulator.
The PSPCL will move the Punjab State Power Regulatory Commission in the coming days, to get the nod for buying imported coal.