All efforts by the Delhi government to revitalise the under-utilised gas-powered power plant in Bawana seem to be in vain. Recently, the government had approached the three distribution companies in the capital for a commitment to buy power generated from the plant, which has a power-generation capacity of 1,500 MW. However, sources say they have denied giving any commitment now and nor is it likely that they will agree in the near future.
The Bawana plant is the largest gas-powered power plant in North India and the second largest in the country. At present, the plant is not even producing 350 MW or a quarter of its capacity due to the non-availability of sufficient gas. The plant consists a total of six units — four gas units and two steam turbines. The work for this power project was awarded to BHEL on a turnkey basis.
Alok Barara, an energy expert, told The Sunday Guardian: “There isn’t a ‘supply crisis’ in India. When we look closely, we find it has little to do with the capacity to generate and supply electricity. The installed capacity for power generation in Delhi has increased four-fold in the past two decades. In the past five years alone, installed capacity has increased by over 246%, but demand for power has increased by only 28%. Also, the number of electricity consumers in Delhi has increased by 57% from 2005-06 to 2012-13.”
The domestic consumer share has increased from 76.9% in 2005 to 81% in 2013. If we look at the gap between Delhi’s total energy generation and its energy consumption, we find that Delhi has always been able to fulfill its energy requirements, at least in theory. The maximum deficit of energy that Delhi has had in the past 10 years was just 1.72% in 2006-07. Between 2003 and 2011, the aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses in electricity distribution in Delhi came down from 52% to 16%. This is a significant achievement compared to the national average.
“Delhi’s electricity consumption per sq km compared to the rest of the country is 34 times that of industrialised states like Gujarat and far above that of poorer states such as Uttar Pradesh. And with gas prices dropping, the Bawana plant will bounce back very soon,” Barara said.
As per yearly records, the gas-powered plant has the highest running cost per MW of electricity in the whole NCR. The Delhi government is supposedly seeking more gas supply from GAIL (India) Limited. But, to seal an agreement with GAIL, the government has to take approval from the three discoms in the city — BSES Yamuna (BYPL), BSES Rajdhani (BRPL) and Tata Power (TPDDL) — which does not seem to be materialising.
High running cost of the facility, shortage of gas and price at which it is offered are factors driving up the cost of power at the plant.
The Pragati-III Combined Cycle Power Plant located in Bawana is owned by the Pragati Power Corporation Limited. The senior management says that due to “the tussle between the AAP government and the three discoms, with the bitter history that they have, this facility is bearing the brunt.”
The price of power pegged and put in front of the three discoms was Rs.3.72 per unit (variable cost). This was exclusive of the fixed cost. Explaining their side of the situation, a vice president of TPDDL said “Delhi is not suffering from power shortage at the moment. Our power purchase deals are already in place and the present cost of power being offered from the Bawana power plant is still turning out to be expensive.”
In the past, the Delhi Power Minister had written to the Centre asking allocation of gas for the said power plant. However, Satyendra Jain told The Sunday Guardian, “A positive response doesn’t seem on the cards. We also have to look at other alternatives. Power plants all over the country are facing similar shortages, and that is driving up the cost of power. It is not a case of running costs only. The shortage of gas and price at which it is offered is also a major factor.”