Haryana keeps power plants shut for months, plans 2 units
Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar recently announced to give a push to two new super-critical coal-based power units in the state.
The move to enhance the state’s own power generation with the new thermal units of 800 MW each at the existing plants at Panipat and Yamunanagar comes at a time when the state-run Haryana Power General Corporation Limited (HPGCL), which has installed generation capacity of 3230 MW, is passing through a tough phase.
The existing plants at Panipat, Yamunanagar and Hisar are being kept shut for prolonged period every year. The reason: distribution companies Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (UHBVN) and Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN), to which the HPGCL supplies power, have surplus energy and the generation company is asked to back down its generation at short notices.
Between April and September in 2014-15, 33% (approximately 4,532 million units) of the installed capacity of HPGCL was either backed down or “boxed up” for lack of demand from the two discoms. In 2013-14 also, 30% of the installed capacity was backed down with units 1 to 8 of Panipat Thermal Power Station being the worst affected. The newer power plants at Hisar and Yamunanagar have also been backed down several times in the past two years, adversely affecting the corporation.
The quantum of backing down, according to HPGCL data, is increasing with each passing year along with its frequency. In its filing before the Haryana Electricity Regulatory Commission (HERC), the corporation stated that unplanned backing down had affected the “operational life and efficiency” of the power plants, consequently increasing the repair and maintenance expenses.
The coal consumption also reduces significantly, leading to piling up of coal stock at the plants and the consequent operational difficulties, besides increasing the risk of smoldering and loss in the gross calorific value of the stored coal. “HPGCL is obligated to purchase coal as per its agreement with the coal companies. If the minimum stipulated quantity (65% of contracted quantity) is not lifted, a significant amount of up to 40% of the coal cost becomes payable as compensation for short lifting,” said a generation corporation official.
Petitioning the HERC to make it mandatory for UHBVN and DHBVN to purchase a minimum amount of power, the HPGCL has requested the commission to also give directions to the discoms to schedule their power requirement on monthly basis and provide the schedule beforehand to give it sufficient time to assess the demand and plan supply accordingly. “It will enable the corporation to tie up for the sale of surplus power to third party (any other discom or bulk user),” reads the application submitted to the power regulator. The HERC is expected to give its order on these issues in a week’s time.
A power sector expert said the HPGCL units were being backed down because the state had added to its generation capacity and contracted power without augmenting transmission and distribution. “If there is unmet demand, it is due to system constraints and not due to non-availability of electricity,” he said. While the HPGCL gets fixed cost at the rate of `1 per unit for power not generated due to backing down, a discom official cited the cost of power purchase as the reason for cutting down on power from the ‘sister corporation’.
“When power is available at competitive rates through long-term power purchase agreements, it is best to exercise that option in the interest of consumers and the companies,” he reasoned, requesting anonymity. However, the corporations are not getting all power cheap. The power supply, according to sources, from NTPC’s super thermal plant at Jhajjar and gas-based plant at Bawana is not inexpensive.
When contacted, HPGCL managing director MKV Rama Rao said the discoms had supply tie-up for over 9,500 MW of power from all sources in view of peak load demand in summer. “In off-peak season, our units are backed down or boxed up. We have petitioned the commission and hope to get relief,” he said. As for the two proposed thermal units, he said the one at Panipat would be set up in place of the existing old units (1 to 4) to be phased out in coming few years.
“The thermal stations have a long gestation period and will become operational by 2021-22. We will be working on environment and other clearances for the two units. As demand is rising, we will need more power by that time,” he said.