The United Progressive Alliance’s showpiece ultra mega power project scheme, targeted at building up the country’s power generation capacity is in disarray, with six of the projects yet to secure basic clearances. Only the Tata Power Co. in Mundra, is on course.
The first to be awarded, at Sasan (Madhya Pradesh), is mired in controversy and the government could call for fresh bids from companies wishing to develop the project. The winning bid at Sasan was secured by Lanco Infratech Ltd and Globeleq Singapore Pte Ltd. Soon after, Globeleq decided to sell some of its assets including the Singapore firm. Lanco and Jindal Steel & Power acquired Globeleq Singapore, but the losing bidders protested saying this had changed the constitution of the winning consortium. The issue is being examined by a panel headed by HDFC Ltd chairman Deepak Parekh.
Projects at Cheyuur in Tamil Nadu and Jharsuguda in Orissa are faring no better. “The Tamil Nadu government wants the project to be set up in Nagapattinam as against the earlier identified site at Cheyuur in Kancheepuram district. In Orissa (where the plant was to come up at Jhasuguda), a peculiar situation has arisen as the state government gave its go-ahead to 13 companies for setting up power projects in the state resulting in a shortage of feasible sites owing to land shortage,” said a Central Electricity Authority (CEA) executive who did not wish to be identified.
In Karnataka (Tadri) and Girye (Maharashtra), the projects are facing environmental roadblocks, while the Akaltara project in Chhattisgarh has been delayed by the state government’s demand that it should be given 12% of the power free of cost.
The Union power ministry has already written to the state power secretaries of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Orissa, setting them an April deadline for site confirmation failing which the projects would be awarded to other states.
A.K. Razdan, the Union power secretary however denied that the projects were facing delays. “We are constantly reviewing the projects. All ... have to move with the support of the state governments. ... It takes time for these projects to be set up as they are not paper projects,” he said.
Some of the demands for relocating the projects can’t be met for technical reasons, said the CEA executive. The project to be located in Tamil Nadu will be fed by imported coal, he explained, and the port near the plant should have enough depth so that large ships ferrying coal can berth there.
“The sea near Nagapattinam has a shallow depth which will not be feasible for the coal importing ships to berth. Comparably, the water depth near Cheyuur is quite deep. Cheyuur is also a feasible option as the load centre (the point from where the power generated by the plant is transmitted to the grid, which then distributes it) is nearby thereby, reducing the costs involved in building up a transmission network,” the executive added.
CEA has already identified three additional sites at Ongole (Andhra Pradesh), Tenughat (Jharkhand) and Gujarat for relocating three of these projects. Analysts tracking the power sector say even the partial success of the ultra mega power project scheme would be “a huge achievement.”