The Punjab government plans to shut state-owned “inefficient” thermal power plants in Bathinda and Rupnagar and have a superior, supercritical replacement of higher capacity at Rupnagar.
Unlike a conventional coal-fired thermal plant, a supercritical plant consumes less fuel, produces less carbon gases and is more efficient in power generation.
Top leaders, including deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also in charge of the power department, have discussed the plan with Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) and formed a committee of its thermal-division engineers to study the matter. “We’ll have a clear picture in two-to-three months,” said a power department source. The state government wants the PSPCL to build the supercritical plant. For the new supercritical plants in Talwandi Sabo and Rajpura, it went to private players.
The Rupnagar thermal plant has four units each of 420 MW, first of which was commissioned in 1974. The Bathinda plant with six units of 210 MW each had its first unit commissioned in 1984. The power department claims that both plants are past their stipulated life.
The Bathinda plant was upgraded seven years ago for Rs 600 crore, yet it failed to give the desired output. The plants engage 4,000 workers and engineers each, while the new technology will cut manpower drastically. The state could have it in five to seven years.
“The government has the permissions for a supercritical thermal plant at Rupnagar, which has adequate land and water,” said PSPCL chairman and managing director KD Chaudhari. He said the government was studying the viability of building three to four units of 800 to 1,000 MW each to meet the demand. For each megawatt, the project cost would be Rs 5 crore.
A former member of the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC), Virinder Singh, said that in the tariff orders of previous years, the regulatory commission also advocated for a supercritical plant to replace the obsolete technology.
Why the need
A cheap alternative for generating electricity is required. The cost of running the Rupnagar and Bathinda plants is too high. The obsolete-technology plants are low on efficiency. Three rounds of meetings have taken place at the top government level to replace these. The average variable cost of the PSPCL-owned plant is higher — up to Rs 3.5 per unit — whereas for supercritical plants, it is Rs 2.2 to Rs 2.4 per unit. The variable cost covers coal, oil, and manpower inputs.