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HindustanTimes Mon,01 Sep 2014

Private power plants fail to live up to hype

Vishal Rambani, Hindustan Times  Patiala, July 13, 2014
First Published: 12:34 IST(13/7/2014) | Last Updated: 12:42 IST(13/7/2014)

Even almost six months after commissioning, the private thermal-energy plants, which Punjab government touts as major achievement, have failed to support the needs of the state and their viability is in question.

The state requires outside power support or purchase only from mid-June to mid-August; otherwise, its own electricity plants, central allocation, and long-term purchase agreements are sufficient to bear the load. In the first year of operation, the private thermal energy plants at both Rajpura (1400 megawatt) and Talwandi Sabo (660 MW, one unit) have failed to produce the expected amount of electricity.

Besides, the Rajpura Plant has raised a bill for Rs. 5.40 for each unit of power sold, much higher than the state’s own generation cost and purchases (short-term and long-term). The PSPCL has not paid the bill, so a controversy is not far. Even the opposition has started targeting the state over the underperforming of its private thermal units. “The state government inaugurated both plants by the first week of December but none is generating power. The government fooled the public but now God has exposed its lies by delaying monsoon,” said Congress leader Brahm Mohindra.

“Yes, the pretence of power-surplus state was over with the prediction of a poor monsoon, but the state power corporation knew always that both plants couldn’t generate anything without enough coal, yet, to save skin or score brownie points, it continued to play up their value,” said a PSPCL official. The management hoped the monsoon would revive to reduce power demand and cover their lies.

The Rajpura plant is operational but will inadequate coal to run at peak capacity, while the Talwandi Sabo unit, after a trial run of 72 hours, is yet to get the clearances necessary for coal linkage.

Even PSPCL chair man and managing director KD Chaudhri, who these days avoids the media, accepted in a press release issued here that independent power producers (IPPs) of Punjab were not running at full capacity because of coal shortage. “Once the plants start getting coal, the gap in the demand and supply will be bridged and the regulatory measures withdrawn,” he stated.

“The PSPCL units are producing power as per capacity; and through the central allocation and purchase, we are making arrangements for 8,400 MW of the 9,500 MW required,” he added, claiming that if the IPPs could contribute even 1,900 MW, there would be no power cut. He expected the situation to ease with the arrival of monsoon.

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