Over the last three months,a success story has been quietly scripted on the single-biggest impediment facing the countrys power sector the absence of firm coal supply agreements for a majority of the country thermal power projects.
State-owned Coal India Ltd (CIL) has been forced into inking fuel supply agreements (FSA) with a total of 146 new power projects so far,totalling a cumulative capacity of over 65,000 MW,within touching distance of the 78,000 MW fuel pact target set under a PMO-led initiative early last year.
With agreements already in place for projects commissioned before March 2009,the impetus in the FSA signing initiative over the last few of months means firm fuel linkages for all power stations that are either operational till now,or projects slated to come on stream by 2015. The 78,000 MW target entailed a total of 173 power pacts,which means less than 30 more pacts to go in the coming weeks.
The success in pushing through the fuel pacts has largely been possible with the power ministry hammering out a consensus with the coal ministry and CIL on the three contentious issues that have held up these agreements so far: a commitment on the annual contracted quantity of coal,penalty for lower supplies and the vexed issue of third party sampling.
In addition,two key decisions over the last couple of months have added to the renewed sense of purpose in the power sector.
The first is the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in July that approved a pass through mechanism for compensating for the higher cost of imported coal for private power projects.
The second is a decision by an Empowered Group of Ministers clearing the amendments to the standard bidding documents for new thermal power plants offered under the tariff based competitive bidding route (Case II projects).
Instructions have been issued to the regulatory commissions,who have to oversee the pass-though formula for IPPs (independent power producers) under which they can import coal themselves,or CIL will import and this additional price for imported coal,will be pass through in the power tariff, an official involved in the exercise said.
Additionally,a decision by the group of ministers on August 23 has assured that any additional domestic gas available in the next three years would be allocated to the power sector and not diverted to the fertiliser sector.
This means that about 10-11 mmscmd (million standard cubic metres per day) of additional natural gas,estimated to be produced in the country during the next three years would go to fuel-starved gas stations. Analysts concur that the four broad decisions on the fuel side,including for both coal and gas stations,has brought about a semblance of viability back to the fuel-starved power sector.
Last fiscal,the country added 20,622 MW of capacity,over 2,600 MW higher than the 17,956 MW targeted during the year. An additional 2,512 MW of capacity was subsequently added in the quarter ended June 2013,which means a cumulative capacity of 23,134 MW has been added in the first 15 months of the Twelfth) Plan period. Of this,nearly 60 per cent is accounted for by the private sector.