With the decreasing power demand, which has dropped tp half after the paddy season, all the state-owned power plants having 13 units have been facing extended shutdown and while private plants are operational and selling power. Since November 16, all the three Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL)-owned plants have not generated any power. PSPCL sources allege the government is promoting private players at the cost of state-owned plants.
Authorities, however, said that due to low demand of power, the cost of power generation in these plants was higher because of the use of obsolete technology while cheap power was available from the various private companies. The information procured revealed that the 460 MW Guru Nanak Dev Thermal plant Bhatinda has been shut, with none of its 4 units running, since September 27. All four units of Lehra Mohabat have been non-operational since November 9 while at the 1260-MW Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal plant in Ropar, the sole running unit was shut down on November 15.
Punjab, with an annual power generation capacity of 13,900 MW, is a power-surplus state. Even during peak hours at the time of paddy crop, the state needs around 11,000 MW. Currently, the daily demand for power is around 5000-5500 MW, which comes down during night hours to 3000-3200 MW. To meet the state’s demand, Punjab is purchasing power from private sector plants at Rajpura and Talwandi Sabo, which are operational. It’s also purchasing power from Nabha-based plant of Larsen and Tubro (L&T).
PSPCL sources said that government was gradually promoting private players. As per them, in the past four years, from 2012-13 to 2016-17, the plant load factor (PLF) at Bhatinda has been reduced from 47.3% to 18.1 %, from 89.5% to 33.95% for Lehra Mohabat plant and from 83 % to 25.15% for Ropar plant. During the same period, the private sector plant at Rajpura had PLF of 55.09% in 2014-15 which increased to 76.99% in 2016-17. The PLF at Talwandi Sabo increased from 34.77% in 2014-15 to 46.55% in 2016-17. Thus, while capacity utilisation of state-run plants is reducing, the same for private plants are increasing.
“The power-purchase agreements (PPAs) with private players were highly one-sided to favour the company, “ said a senior officer in PSPCL, adding that it is the responsibility of the state government to stop the undue profits to the private players, which are getting a fixed amount from the government whether the power in lieu of that amount is being required or not. He said as per the MOU, Punjab is liable to cover the fixed cost of capital and staff cost even if these private thermal plants are not selling the power to state.
When contacted, PSPCL chairman-and-managing director A Venu Prasad said at the moment the demand of power was very low in the state and had reduced to more than three times during night hours as compared to the summer season, which is why 13 state-run units had been closed. He said the state was purchasing cheap power from other sources to meet the demand.