‘Consumers have a right to get cheap power’

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 26 Oct 2018 09:52:17


Staff Reporter,

HC seeks State, Centre’s response over supplying cheap coal to efficient private power plants and passing on the benefit to consumers


Mahagenco requires 1.49 lakh tonne coal per day

Coal Companies supplying 20.28 rake every day

HC had directed to ensure adequate coal to power plants

Mahagenco’s PLF is 47 % as per CEA report

Mahagenco’s capacity is 10,380 MW and has coal linkage of 56.529 million metric tonne with CIL and its subsidiaries like WCL, SECL, SCCL MCL etc.

Due to less materialisation of cheap domestic coal, power plants get inadequate coal as compared to actual requirement

Underlining the right of consumers to get cheaper and uninterrupted power, Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court has sought to know as to why cheap coal can not be given to efficient power plants of private companies and pass on the benefit to consumers. Reminding state run power and coal utilities that they exist for consumers and “it is not necessary for State Government or Union of India to make special efforts to see that any particular instrumentality like Mahagenco survives.”

The High Court while virtually endorsing the existing arrangement of coal sharing between private and public sector units on the basis of efficiency and ultimate benefit to consumers, also asked the Centre and State to ponder over this critical issue and evolve some policy.

During earlier hearings, Mahagenco-the state power utility came under fire for diverting the cheap coal received from coal utilities to private power plants. However, later it transpired that most of the private power plants had plant load factor ranging from 95 to 108 per cent while average PLF of Mahagenco plant was between a dismal 48 to 69 per cent. As against the requirement of 1.49 lakh tonne coal per day to run its power plants, the Mahagenco has 285.49 lakh metric tonne stocked with its various thermal power plants which is barely sufficient to run the plants for two to 4 days. Only at Koradi thermal plant, the coal stock is satisfactory and according to Central Electricity Authority report it is around 107 lakh metric tonne. The CEA report indicates that most thermal power plants have received between 81 to 98 per cent of actual contracted quantity from the Coal India Limited and its subsidiaries like Western Coalfields Limited.

A division bench consisting of Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice S M Modak while hearing a PIL filed by a vigilant citizen Anil Wadpalliwar blasting coal and power utilities for indulging in a turf war over supply of quality coal due to which costly coal was imported, power situation got worsened and burden was passed on to hapless consumers, noted that Mahagenco’s own units were quite old as compared to private plants like Dhariwal and Ideal Power which got some share of cheap coal.

According to Mahagenco, the cost of power generated by private plants was cheaper by four naya paisa than its own units. However, even this benefit would not be passed on to consumers because it may be exhausted in “supporting the administration of Mahagenco,” the High Court observed while wondering as to why should consumers suffer for inefficiency of the state power utility. Mahagenco while denying import of coal claimed that coal was supplied to private companies as per decision of Central Government.

“In this situation, we find that if coal received is being delivered at subsidized rate to Mahagenco, the same can also be made over to private generating companies and those companies can be permitted to supply electricity directly without intervention of Mahagenco so that the benefit can be given to ultimate consumer,” the High Court observed.

The High Court had repeatedly directed coal and power utilities to ensure adequate coal stocks in all thermal power plants to avoid any critical emergency and improve inter-se co-ordination.

Adv Shreerang Bhandarkar appeared for the petitioner. Adv Rakesh Rathod (Mahagenco), GP Sumant Deopujari (State) Adv Ajay Ghare (CIL-WCL), ASG Ulhas Aurangabadkar and Adv Mugdha Chandurkar (Union of India), Adv S V Purohit (MERC) appeared for the respondents.