When Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal years back assured a power-surplus Punjab and making electricity cheaper, very few saw hope in his promise.
The state is power surplus in winters, but still faces shortage during peak summer months. With the installed capacity at the three state-owned thermal plants unchanged at 260 MW, the state is relying heavily on the 3,920 MW it expects from the three private thermal plants. Sukhbir’s dream of these three plants ensuring cheap and surplus power is still to be realised.
The reality is that as against the expected generation of 3,920 MW, Punjab is getting only 2,060 MW.
The only complete project is the Rajpura thermal plant, which is running to full capacity and providing 1,400-MW power to the state, while the Talwandi Sabo thermal plant is running a 660-MW single unit as against the 1,980 MW it was expected to provide. The Goindwal thermal plant is yet to start operations.
Industry experts suggest that it is primarily due to the coal shortage that hit plants across the country in 2014 and that the private plants will provide enough power by June this year, given the coal situation improves. At present, Punjab’s maximum demand reaches 2,450 Lakh Units (LU) in the peak paddy season, but it to date has been able to provide only 2,300 LU. The second major claim of the government is to reduce power rates, but neither officials of the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) nor any expert is willing to vouch for it. “Power rates from any of the private thermal plants will not cost less and instead power rates are increasing with every financial year,” points out chief patron of the All India Power Engineers Federation Padamjit Singh. “We expect the power rates to go up and reach Rs 13 per unit as surplus power which will be available by this year-end will not find enough buyers,” he says.
Meanwhile the huge power subsidy bill of Punjab, estimated at around Rs 5,109 crore for this fiscal, has once again come into focus. The 14th Finance Commission has rejected the state’s claim for the revenue-deficit grant because it included the power subsidy in state’s revenue receipts.