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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014

‘Power-surplus’ state goes buying

Vishal Rambani , Hindustan Times   Patiala, May 03, 2014
First Published: 10:39 IST(3/5/2014) | Last Updated: 10:41 IST(3/5/2014)

The tall claims of power-sur plus Punjab have fallen flat, as Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has invited tenders for purchasing 2,600-megawatt electricity in summer, apart from approaching the regulator to impose power cuts.

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The state buys electricity every summer but during these Lok Sabha elections, it has claimed to have become power sur plus, with enough spare energy to even sell.

The purchase exercise now also exposes that only the private thermal-energy plant at Rajpura is operating, while the Talwandi Sabo first unit, which was inaugurated before the elections, is not ready yet for commercial production. “It won’t be before June,” said a project official on the condition of anonymity.

NOT EVEN PADDY SEASON YET

Apar t from the f ailure of private plants to start production, the squeezed coal supply has contributed to the crisis. Usually, Punjab buys electricity during the paddy season, but now it requires 1,000 MW from May 16 to 31, when no one is Punjab is allowed to sow the water-guzzling crop.

TRICKY SUPPLIER

Coal supplier PANEM is armtwisting the state for enhanced payment and the arbitration with the PSPCL has star ted already. Previous years, it supplied more coal than the approved mining plan on its own and only 59-lakh tons this year against the approved 70-lakh tons.

It has inter r upted supply repeatedly in the past two years to extort monetary benefits over and above the purchase agreement. Coal shortage forced the PSPCL to shut some of the units of its Bathinda plant and buy power from outside.

It was SOS on April 9 when Powercom learnt that only 3.5lakh ton coal was expected to reach its thermal plants against the monthly requirement of 10.6lakh tons. The stock is depleting daily at all three thermal-energy plants.

The fuel will last only 11 days at Lehra, 25 days at Rupnagar, and 17 days at Bathinda.
Higher officials in the PSPCL agree that coal crisis is forcing short-ter m purchase, but on record, they deny it.

PSPCL chairman and managing director KD Chaudhri said: “Tenders have been called to ensure uninter rupted power supply we committed to deliver last year.”

Power demand increased significantly in summer, from agriculture sector especially in view of the paddy-sowing season, and from the domestic and commercial consumers, he said.

“As theme teorological department has hinted a belowaverage monsoon, we have to make ar rangements for t he paddy season also. The coal issue is in the final stage of resolution,” he further said.

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