GUWAHATI, Dec 6 - A coterie in New Delhi has been allegedly preventing coal-linkage to the proposed 1,600-MW Margherita coal-based power project, said sources in the Power Department here. Sources plea that Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal should personally take up the issue with the Union Government with due earnest, arguing that commissioning of the project would not only reduce Assam’s dependence on outside the State power generators, but will also boost the State’s economy.
Sources allege that to serve the interest of the big private players in the country’s power sector, even after a series of meetings, the coal linkage to the proposed 1,600-MW Margherita coal-based thermal power project has not yet been sanctioned.
The country, which had only 0.64 lakh MWs of installed capacity in the early 1990s, can now boast of a total installed capacity of 3.31 lakh MWs of power due to some major changes in the power policy, which facilitated entry of big private sector players in the power sector.
In this changed scenario, where installed capacity far exceeds demand, the public sector thermal generating stations, particularly those belonging to the State Electricity Boards and their successor generating utilities, are being forced to back down and even shut down their stations. This is done to provide load against load guarantees given in the power purchase agreements (PPAs) they have signed with the private sector independent power producers (IPPs), through regressive the deemed generation clauses.
Elaborating, sources said long-term deemed generation and capacity charges clauses have been incorporated in the PPAs not only in the cases of coal and gas-based private thermal power plants but also for the private centralized solar power developers.
The deemed generation clause requires the consumers – that is the state electricity boards and their successor distribution companies, to compensate the IPPs for fixed charges, irrespective of whether any electrical power is consumed or not. To get an idea of the magnitude of loss involved, sources said the private sector thermal plants imposed a burden on the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) of over Rs. 2,750 crore in the 2016-17 financial year, without supplying any power.
The most ambitious of all schemes to attract private investment in generation was the Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPPs) launched in 2005-06. These are very large-sized projects, approximately 4,000-MWs each, involving an estimated investment of about Rs. 16,000 crores. The biggest of these are Tata Power’s 4,000 -MW coal-based plant and Adani Power’s 4,600-MW plant, both in Gujarat’s port town of Mundra, and Reliance Power’s 3,960-MW Sasan (Madhya Pradesh) and 3,960-MW Tilaiya (Jharkhand) plants.
When the projected power requirement in Gujarat did not materialize due to over-anticipated investment projections, the public sector plants in the state were forced to back down generation due to guaranteed load in the power purchase agreements with the UMPPs at Mundra.
Highly efficient Gujarat public sector plants at Gandhinagar, Ukai and Wanakbori were forced to run at less than 50 percent plant load factor (PLF) while UMPPs of Tata Power and Adani Power at Mundra were recording PLFs between 70 to 80 percent and above.