Even as the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) denied that there was a coal crisis, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday summoned the top management of the PSPCL over the issue.
The PSPCL claimed that there was no shortage of coal, while the state power engineers’ association issued a press release blaming the corporation management for the coal crisis and purchasing power at higher rates.
KD Chaudhri, chairman-cummanaging director, PSPCL, said a few units of the corporation’s thermal plants had been backed down due to more availability of power from the new/upcoming thermal plant of Rajpura and other plants in the central sector such as Mundra in Gujarat and Sasan in Madhya Pradesh.
“Power from these plants is cheaper, which led to the obvious decision of backing down own thermal plants and buying power at a lower cost. It is purely a commercial decision,” claimed Chaudhri, denying any coal crisis.
“Moreover, by backing down our own units, coal is being conserved to meet the higher demand of power during the paddy season,” he added.
Chaudhri said the Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant, Rupnagar, had a coal stock for 24 days; Guru Hargobind Thermal Plant, Lehra Mohabbat, 12 days; and Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant, Bathinda, 17 days. Regular coal rakes are reaching all three thermal plants, he added.
On the standoff with the coal supplier (Panem), he said parleys were on and the matter would be resolved in the next few days.
On the power shutdown in many areas of the state, the PSPCL claimed that this was in order to undertake the maintenance of the transmission and distribution system for the coming paddy/summer season.
Meanwhile, the Punjab State Electricity Board Engineers’ Association (PSEBEA) said the present coal crisis at the state-owned thermal plants was another misdemeanour of the PSPCL management as it had failed to act in a timely manner as per law against the coal supplier.
The PSEBEA, in a press release, said Panem initially withheld coal supply to the Lehra Mohabbat plant in August 2012 when manipulations in coal testing in favour of the firm were unearthed by engineers. The PSPCL management did not take any action against the defaulting firm and swept the matter under the carpet, the release added.
“The mess has been created by the PSPCL management, which is incompetent. Instead of resolving the issue at its own level as per law, it is unnecessarily referring the matter to the government to favour the defaulting firm.
The PSPCL management has a track record of not acting sternly against defaulting firms, particularly private ones such as Spanco, which failed to implement an IT (information technology) project, and the private thermal plant at Talwandi Sabo for nonrecovery of penalty worth Rs. 951 crore due to non-commissioning of the plant as per schedule,” alleged Baldev Si ngh Sran, PSEBEA president.
The association demanded a high-level independent inquiry from the Punjab government into the coal crisis and why during the last financial year, the three thermal plants (Rupnagar, Bathinda and Lehra Mohabbat) failed to meet the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) generation targets due to shortage of coal.
On the PSPCL management’s denial of a coal crisis, Sran said, “Then why is Punjab State Power Corporation Limited buying costly power from Rajpura and other units, when the power of state-owned units is much cheaper? There is a crisis and the government is well aware of it.
Now, we demand action from the government over the failure of the management to resolve the coal issue, which has been pending for the past one-and-a-half years.”