New Delhi: Power minister R.K. Singh said on Thursday that state-run National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) will float a tender to buy farm stubble at Rs5,500 per tonne for power plants, a move that will check farmers from burning it—a key source of pollution in the national capital region (NCR). He said this move will help farmers earn around Rs11,000 per acre from the sale of stubble/straw pellets.

A large number of farmers particularly in Punjab and Haryana are burning the farm stubble/straw, which causes air pollution, in the absence of viable alternatives.

“On an average a farmers get around 2 tonnes of stubble or straw in an acre. NTPC will bring a tender to buy the pellets of this farm residue in next few days at a rate of Rs5,500 per tonne," Singh said at a press conference.

Power secretary A. K. Bhalla however told reporters that the stubble pellets procured for power plants may not be used for this season, but the system will be in place.

On the likely bidders, Singh said a new market will be created under which service providers will bid after making arrangements with farmers. He assured that the use of farm residue pellets would not result in an tariff escalation for the power generator.

Singh said that mixing of pellets up to 10% of the total fuel in a power plant is possible without affecting its efficiency in terms of gross calorific value.

The minister launched the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya) Web portal which will help monitor household electrification progress. It will disseminate information on Household Electrification Status (State, District, village-wise), Household Progress on live basis, State-wise Target vs Achievement, Monthly Electrification Progress.

Singh told reporters that camps will be organised under the scheme in villages where connections would be issued on the spot. “If we want to electrify all households then we would have to go out and do it without waiting for people to come to us and apply for an electricity connection," he said.

He informed that all states are on board under the scheme and seven states have already send their formal proposals which are being examined. The seven states are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Mizoram, Nagaland, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, and Assam.

Singh made it clear that electricity will not be free for anybody but the connections for poor would be provide free of cost under the scheme.

About the 31 December 2017, deadline for meeting stricter emission norms for power plants brought out by environment ministry in December 2015, Singh said that it is being revised. On issues related to backing out on power purchase agreements under solar energy auctions, the minister said that those are legal obligations.

The ministers also urged the startups to come forward to participate in domestic manufacturing of smart and prepaid electricity meters. Saubhagya scheme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 25 September 2017 with an outlay of Rs16,320 crore including Budgetary Support of Rs12,320 crore.

Under Saubhagya scheme, all willing households in rural areas and poor families in urban areas are given free electricity connections. There are around 4 crore un-electrified households in the country and they are targeted for providing electricity connections by December 2018.

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