India’s largest power generator NTPC Ltd has in recent months been hit by fuel shortages and delays in receiving environmental clearances and has run into problems over land acquisition. Arup Roy Choudhury, chairman and managing director of the state-run company, shares his five wishes for 2013 that, if fulfilled, would provide a boost to the energy sector.
l The most important wish I have is to have the required amount of domestic coal to meet my expansion plan and, therefore, I would wish for a mechanism to be devised by which there is an exponential increase in coal mining in the country.
l My second wish to that effect would be to have a coal regulator. If we have a coal regulator and if it is like the regulator in the electricity sector, there will be a very transparent method available to the investor to actually forecast his returns on an investment that he makes on the coal extraction. This would encourage people to come in and invest in coal mining.
l The third wish is that another mechanism be devised to forecast the gas that our country has. With the Supreme Court pronouncing that any resource available within the earth belongs to the people of India, the people of India have the right to know how much gas (there) is. This would also help me in planning my capacity addition which has to be fuelled by gas, which is more eco-friendly and can be executed faster than a coal project. Such projects require less land, emit less carbon dioxide and are set up faster. Then I can plan for the next five years, 10 years or 25 years. Once I know how much gas is available, I also wish (for) a fair pricing of gas.
l And in both the above (coal and gas) I also would like to underline that in no country in the world are your own resources priced at international levels. Domestic coal can’t be priced at international levels because 50% of our coal content is ash and nobody internationally would be interested in taking our coal along with the ash. So, I wish a mechanism for (addressing) the same. The future growth of the power sector depends on domestic coal, which is to be priced properly. Once that is done I think we have a great future because we will be able to generate electricity at a reasonable price and once we are able to generate electricity at a reasonable price—electricity being a great driver of the economy—we can revive growth by expanding our manufacturing base.
l I also wish to tackle the problem of land acquisition. We have a lot of fallow land; therefore we don’t touch the land which is the source of livelihood of people. It could be a national land bank for any infrastructure project. If it is near a coal mine, it should be allocated for power generation. If it is near the sea, it should be used for ports. Depending upon its location it should be allocated for requisite use. I wish an authority for the same cutting across states. At a time when we are talking about public sector units investing their surplus in acquiring properties outside the country, let’s first put some money for acquiring these kinds of land banks within the country through the pooled resources of all the PSUs. If the private sector can pitch in, it must be welcomed. To also move forward from the development versus environmental logjam debate, those who assess the environmental impact of projects should come out of their silos and view things from the nation’s point of view. With their own ministry, they get stuck within silos of wildlife, forests, environment, etc. One must also understand the cost of delays of these national projects. These land banks should also be accorded environmental clearance because without them they are of no use.
AR Choudhury is chairman and managing director of NTPC.