The will of the political masters to meet demand at any cost before the last assembly elections has bled the power corporation of Rs. 1,741 crore in three years.
At a time when Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) is patting own back for "better administration", the Punjab State Energy Regulatory Commission (PSERC) audit report proves it guilty of inefficient planning and inviting loss. The unscheduled purchase in the summer before the voting in 2012 was for a price higher than what the commission permits.
The report says the PSPCL's miscalculating the availability of power from these stations led to an increase in the short-term purchases and the financial implication of Rs. 746 crore in the year 2010-11, `230 crore in the next fiscal, and `491.59 crore in the next (a cumulative implication of Rs. 1,467 crore in three years).
The audit is conducted on the various power-purchase methods. In the paddy season from June to October, to bridge the supply gap, the PSPCL buys power from outside units, central generating stations, and energy banking arrangements; based on short-term deals through traders.
The audit highlighted that the PSPCL had been purchasing expensive power from natural gas and liquid-fuel-based stations all these years where the average variable cost had exceeded Rs. 8 per unit. It also objected to the PSPCL's giving 3 paise per unit commission to private exchanges for purchase when direct purchase could have saved this amount.
Even in the case of banking arrangements, the purchase deals had been signed through intermediary traders who had taken a margin of 3 paise per unit.
The report has observed that the actual average rate of power purchase from other sources in the year 2010-11 is Rs. 5.15 per unit against the commission-approved rate of Rs. 3.12 per unit. This year, short-term power purchase, including overdrawing from the grid, was more than the PSPCL estimates, which escalated the cost of power, as the tariff is higher once you draw more than the sanctioned limit.
Overdrawing alone cost Powercom Rs. 750 crore in the last three years. Even the generation from PSPCL's own thermal-energy units was lower than what the commission had approved, and that forced the purchase, surrendering of power, and the depositing of Rs. 60 crore as interest for delayed payments.
Chairman: we did it for consumers
Asked to react, PSPCL chairman and managing director KD Chaudhri said he would have to study the report first. "Efficient management has led to the financial revival of the PSPCL. Power purchase has remained transparent and to fulfil the needs of consumers during summer, when the demand rises because of paddy plantation," he said.