Debt of coal-based power plants may nearly treble in three years to Rs 5 lakh crore if the issue of stranded electricity generation units is not addressed urgently, NITI Aayog chief executive officer Amitabh Kant said on Wednesday. Inaugurating the 20th India power forum here, Kant said the industry must find ways to put in use 40 gigawatt (GW) of stranded thermal power units and soon replace 92 GW of pollution-generating sources such as petcoke and diesel.
Tepid demand growth for electricity is forcing power plants across the country to run at plant load factors (PLF) of less than 60 per cent, which makes it difficult to service debts. Stating that the electricity supply monitoring mechanism needs to be strengthened to assure the success of the UDAY scheme to turn around state-owned discoms, Kant said only about 4,000 rural feeders are monitored to track energy usage out of the 1.2 lakh meters in this category. Promoting private franchisees and disbursing subsidies to eligible consumers by Aadhaar-linked direct benefit transfer model would also help discoms, Kant added.
Speaking at the same event, power secretary AK Bhalla said smart and prepaid meters would be effective in mitigating the discoms’ financial woes. The government recently said it would only procure prepaid and smart meters now on, starting with the new connections to be brought into the grid through recently announced Saubhagya scheme, which aims to bring electricity to every household by December 2018. The states should promote the culture of annual tariff revisions to help the finances of the discoms, Bhalla added.
(With FE inputs)