July 6, 2021 8:34:46 am
Signing the power purchase agreements (PPAs) was the “best decision for the betterment of Punjab” taken by the then SAD-BJP dispensation, Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal Monday dared the Congress government to cancel them and “register an FIR if our government had committed any fraud or corruption”.
Justifying the PPAs with private power producers signed by the previous government, in which he was the deputy chief minister, Sukhbir said the decision was “in line” with then UPA government’s recommendations when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister. He said the plants which came up in Punjab “provided power at cheapest rate as compared to similar plants which were set up elsewhere”.
Sukhbir said out of the available options like solar power and biomass, the thermal plants at that time were the most viable option in terms of electricity rates. “It was best decision for the betterment of Punjab,” said Sukhbir.
He hit out at Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress government for “not adding even a single mega watt to power generation capacity during its four and a half year rule”. Sukhbir pointed out that the power demand increased by 500 MW every year. “The power demand was 12500 MW in 2017 and the generation capacity was 13000 MW, making Punjab a power surplus state. Now after four-and-a-half years, the power demand has gone up to 14,500 MW, but the generation capacity is less than 13000 MW with the Bathinda thermal plant as well as two units of the Ropar plant being shut down,” said Sukhbir, calling Amarinder Singh as “in-efficient”.
Sukhbir said, “The issue of fixed charges is being politicized by both the Congress and AAP even though they knew the truth that this charge was applicable on private and government thermal plants as well as power purchased from outside the stat. While the fixed charge for the private thermal plants was Rs 1.50 per unit, the same for government thermal plants, when they were closed, was Rs 2.35 per unit”. He added that Punjab has paid a fixed charge of Rs 7,000 crore to government thermal plants during the last five years as per State Electricity Regulatory Commission figures.
Asserting that Punjabis wanted cheap power, Sukhbir said, “If this was possible by cancelling the PPAs entered into with three private thermal plants then the same should be annulled. However, the CM should take the responsibility of covering the shortfall of 4,500 MW at cheaper rates so that Punjabis do not suffer”.
The SAD chief said the private plants were established after much thought due to huge shortfall in 2007. “This shortfall occurred because the then Congress government, also led by Amarinder Singh, did not add a single mega watt of power to the state kitty leading to overloaded sub stations and massive power cuts of 10 hours daily. The SAD-led government took the decision to make Punjab power surplus and followed a standard PPA document created by the UPA government to establish captive thermal plants in the private sector”.
“The PPAs were signed to purchase power between Rs 2.86 to Rs 2.89 per unit, the cheapest at the time. Even recently Madhya Pradesh has executed a PPA for Rs 4.75 per unit, which speaks volumes of the low rates negotiated with private players by the SAD-led government,” he added.
He said the the government led by his party had also spent Rs 5,000 crore in upgrading the transmission and distribution network “so that it could take additional load when required”.
“Transmission and distribution losses were reduced from 32 per cent during Congress tenure to 14 per cent during SAD tenure and the PSPCL was even awarded the best electricity utility award during UPA rule in 2015,” he added.
The SAD president said that state government has failed to give Rs 5,000 crore due to PSPCL and its departments owe the power utility Rs 2,200 crore. “This was the reason why no money had been earmarked for repair and maintenance causing untold misery to farmers and the common man during the current summer season,” he added.
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