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Posted at: Dec 25, 2014, 12:10 AM; last updated: Dec 25, 2014, 12:04 AM (IST)LOOKING BACK -2014- ELECTRICITY

Power supply continues to pose a challenge

Power supply continues to pose a challenge

Bharat Khanna

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 24

In the absence of any viable solution for getting continuous supply of coal from Panem Coal Mines Limited, residents in the state are apprehensive of facing another summer plagued by power crisis in 2015.

Consumers faced a hike in electricity charges as the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL), which gets its supply from the Pachwara coal block, Jharkhand, has stopped power supply since September 19, leaving the state facing a shortage of coal.

Consumers in Punjab, this summer, faced an acute shortage of power, especially the farmers. With no assurance offered as of yet by the authorities, the problem could be serious in case it is not addressed immediately.

More importantly, Panem is supposed to supply coal to PSPCL only till March 31, 2015 as per the contract. After the allocation of coal blocks was cancelled by the Supreme Court, the supply is likely to get affected, which could lead to power shortage.

On September 24 this year, the Supreme Court cancelled 214 coal blocks declaring them as illegal and also imposed a penalty of Rs 295 per tonne imposed on all cancelled coal block holders.

The coal to all three state-run thermal plants was being supplied by Panem through Pachwara block that was among the cancelled coal blocks.

Plants run at low capacity

All the 14 units of three state-owned thermal plants ran at a low capacity this summer. These three plants have a total capacity of 2,640 MW. Out of this, Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant, Bathinda, has a capacity of 460 MW, Guru Gobind Singh Thermal Plant, Lehra Mohabbat, 920 MW, and Ropar Thermal Plant 1,260 MW. But all are facing a shortage of coal at present.

A number of units remained either closed or were running at low capacity, thus producing very little power.

New private power plants fail to function

The new private power plants at Goindwal Sahib, Rajpura and Talwandi Sabo, with a total installed capacity of 3,920 MW, failed to supply even 500 MW of power to the state as they did not make arrangements for sufficient coal for their plants.

In comparison to this, the neighbouring state of Haryana, during the last 5 years, has added three new thermal plants at Yamunanagar (600 MW), Hisar (1,200 MW) in the state sector and Jhajjar (1,500 MW) joint venture with NTPC and Jhajjar (1,320 MW) CLP in the private sector.

Plants still held up

Approved in 2011, the thermal plant in Mukerian is yet to see the light of day. Despite the allocation of captive coal mines in 2013 by the Central government, nothing has happened on the ground.

There is also no substantial action on the ambitious 1,320 MW Gobindpura thermal plant in Mansa district that witnessed farmers’ bloodshed during its land acquisition process in August 2011.

Besides PPA, the mutation and de-notification of land for Poena plant has not been done by the district administration. The company cannot apply for change of land use (CLU) certificate to begin the construction till the land is de-notified.

1,980 MW Talwandi Sabo Power Plant Limited

Talwandi Sabo Power Plant (TSPL), this year, started adding power from just one of its units, nearly in the year after the scheduled date. It is yet to complete the other two units of the plant having a capacity of 660 MW. It had received the linkage of coal after a long wait in November this year.

Staff shortage a big challenge

There is an acute shortage of staff in the field, both in PSPCL and PSTCL, and the managements are least bothered about the deteriorating consumer services. Instead of in-house reform initiatives, unscrupulous middlemen are being invited through reckless outsourcing, which is being considered a panacea for all ills.

The Engineers’ Association, earlier, suggested the the PSPCL management that is working on low cost models to check the distribution losses would not only affect the company’s revenue but also cripple the quality of supply to the consumers. But the PSPCL management failed to implement the suggested schemes in a time-bound manner, which has also contributed to the crisis.

Many such schemes were sanctioned by the Government of India while the funds remained unutilised for the last three years.

Costlier purchase of power in 2014

In summer this year, against the demand for 10,500 MW per day, the state supplied about 8,800 MW to the consumers. The Punjab Government is capable of providing only 3,300 MW from its own hydel and thermal power plants while it purchased 5,300 MW from outside at the average rate of Rs 4.5 per unit.

In the summer of 2014, the state government purchased power to the tune of Rs 49 crore every day from outside sources at Rs 4.5 per unit while power worth Rs 4 crore per day was purchased from private plants in Punjab at around Rs 5.50 per unit.

The state government also purchased power at Rs 5.50 per unit against the claim of Rs 2.89 per unit from the Rajpura Thermal Plant.

Non-recovery of penalty from private plants

As per the power purchase agreement (PPA) signed with private thermal plants, in case any unit is not commissioned till its scheduled date (COD), then private thermal plants will have to pay the liquidated damages (LD) to the PSPCL.

Out of the seven private thermal units with a total capacity of 3,920 MW, at present, 0only one unit in Rajpura (700 MW) has been commissioned.

Although the state purchased costlier power from other states due to unwarranted delay in commissioning of private thermals plants at Talwandi Sabo and Goindwal Sahib, the state government has not recovered the penalty worth Rs 1,090 crore.

The first unit of 3x660 MW Talwandi Sabo thermal plant was to be commissioned by August 31, 2013, the second unit by December 31, 2013, and the third unit by April 30, 2014.

The claims for Rs 317 crore as liquidated damages (LD) on Sterlite Group for Unit 1, due on September 10, 2013, and LD of Rs 317 crore for unit 2 due on January 10, 2014 and Rs 317 crore for third unit due on May 10, 2014 (total Rs 951 crore), have not been recovered.

Similarly, the first unit of 2x270 MW Goindwal Sahib Thermal Plant was to be commissioned by May 20, 2013, and the second unit by November 20, 2013 but the GVK has failed to commission the units so far and liquidated damages amounting 139.7 crore have not been recovered by the PSPCL.


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