Thursday / August 15.


egNEW DELHI: India Friday called for building the SAARC power grid so that excess power produced in one region of South Asia can be used to meet deficits elsewhere.


Addressing the fifth South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation energy ministers meet here, Power Minister Piyush Goyal said that with the implementation of such a grid, hydel power generated in India’s northeast, for instance, could be transported via Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, on to Afghanistan, or offshore wind projects set up on the Sri Lankan coast could supply power to Pakistan or Nepal.


“Rivers can flow only in one direction, but power can flow in the direction of our choice. I dream of a seamless SAARC power grid within the next few years,” Goyal said.


“SAARC is a robust market but constraints are primarily on the supply side as there are pockets where deficits persist,” he added of the region where most countries are battling with power deficits.


The household per capita consumption of electricity within the grouping is only 128 units compared to the global average of 3,045 units.


Giving details of intra-SAARC linkages established in the recent past, Goyal gave examples of the 1,450 MW exchange between India and Bhutan, 500 MW between India and Bangladesh and 150 MW between India and Nepal.


Energy ministers and senior officials from the SAARC member countries — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka besides hosts India — are taking part in the two-day meet.


Senior officials meeting on the first day Thursday agreed on a framework agreement for energy cooperation which has been pending since 2010, the power ministry said in a statement here.


SAARC was created in 1985 with its secretariat in Kathmandu. Regional cooperation in the energy sector began in January 2000 with the setting up of a SAARC Technical Committee on Energy.

(Source: The Economic Times, October 18, 2014)




NEW DELHI: Bankers have formed a committee under IIFCL Chairman Santosh Nayyar to suggest ways to sort out financing issues in the power projects which are held up on account of fuel supply constraints. The committee will submit its report on 7 November.


‘We have discussed about gas based, coal based power projects and projects which are held up because of last mile financing…we have constituted a small group headed by the CMD, IIFCL, Santosh Nayyar to examine all these issues,’ Financial Services Secretary G S Sandhu told reporters after a meeting between bankers and private sector power producers. As much as Rs 5 lakh crore investment is stuck in power projects on various reasons including raw material shortage.


During the meeting, power producers made a detailed presentation to highlight the issues concerning the sector.


Sandhu also said the Coal Ministry will auction the coal blocks that have been cancelled recently by the Supreme Court within three months.


‘The second area which I have mentioned is on the coal blocks which have been cancelled. They (coal blocks) have to be put to auction within three months time frame. That is what they (Coal Ministry) have informed us, three months that it will go to auction,’ Sandhu said.


He also said that certain issues will be discussed with the Reserve Bank as there are constraints that the banks are facing such as viability, extra funding and debt restructuring. Sandhu said some issues will also be taken up to the Cabinet.


‘There are issues going to the Cabinet very very soon such as pooling of the imported coal with domestic coal as well as gas pooling,’ he added.


He also said certain matters will be taken up to the Finance Ministry at a later stage. ‘Once the report is available to us, then we will go to the Finance Minister as well and take his approval on implementation of those issues. And wherever we feel that the other institution or the other ministry is not responding, that will also be taken up at the higher level.’


Sandhu said issues related to restructuring, life cycle linked financing were also discussed during the meeting. As much as 1,00,000 MW of coal and gas based power projects are suffering due to raw material shortage and have been facing time and cost overruns.


As per latest official data, 61 thermal power stations of the total 103 projects are grappling with critical coal shortage with less than a week’s stock at their disposal.


State-run NTPC’s generating stations with nil stocks include Indira Gandhi thermal plant in Haryana, Rihand, Singrauli and Tanda in Uttar Pradesh and Vindhayachal in Madhya Pradesh.


As many as 8,500 MW gas-based power plants are stranded due to fuel shortage. NTPC, which has gas-based plants of around 4,000 MW, is running the stations at less than 40 per cent capacity.

(Source: Millennium Post, October 18, 2014)




NEW DELHI: The Centre will soon take measures to resolve the impasse in power sector following the Supreme Court’s decision last month to rule allocations of coal blocks illegal, coal and power minister Piyush Goyal has said.


The government has not been able to address the issues pertaining to coal supplies to power plants on account of restrictions during the assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, Goyal said on Friday on the sidelines of the meeting of energy ministers and secretaries of member nations of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.


“The government is committed to ensure coal supplies to the power projects that are our national asset,“ said Goyal.


“There is no reason for investors in power, steel and cement to worry as their investments will be safe. We will ensure coal block allocation in transparent and competitive manner to ensure adequate fuels.“


Only 20 days of the six months given by the Supreme Court to transfer coal blocks have passed and there is enough time to ensure coal supplies, the minister said. “Out of 214, only 40 blocks were producing coal and the Supreme Court judgement has given an opportunity to open up the sector again,“ he said.


Commenting on the private firms’ decision to withdraw from the bidding process for two ultra mega power projects, Goyal said that bidding is an open forum for everyone and it is up to bidders to decide to bid or not.


The two-day meet ended without representation of Pakistan. Goyal said that SAARC secretariat had invited Pakistan but it did not receive any response.


Meanwhile, representatives of seven countries finalised the SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation.

(Source: The Economic Times, October 18, 2014)



GUWAHATI: Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju today said he is “traditionally” against construction of big dams in North East and favoured smaller ones with 300-500 MW capacities.


“Traditionally I am not for big hydro power projects in North East. I am not in favour of 4,000 MW or 5,000 MW projects. I am fine if one or two big projects come up in the region with consultations with the public,” Rijiju said at the Infrastructure Conclave by industry chamber PHDCCI here.


He supported construction of smaller or mid-level projects in the range of 300 MW or 500 MW capacities in North East.

(Source: The Economic Times, October 18, 2014)




KATHMANDU: Nepal and India have agreed to properly utilise the abundant water resources of the Himalayan nation so that both the countries’ growing needs are met.


Former power minister Suresh Prabhu, who is also the chairperson of Council on Energy, Environment and Water Resources, said that India’s relationship with Nepal is very special and unique, and India is ready to help Nepal which could make the country prosperous and also benefit its people.


“Nepal is gifted with abundant water resources, but the country lacks proper and systematic management of its resources, which is causing huge damage in the forms of floods, to both the countries,” he pointed out.


If properly managed the water resources of Nepal can meet the growing energy requirements of India as well as provide huge economic benefits to the people of Nepal, Prabhu said.


With the development of hydropower Nepal’s per capita income could go up remarkably and it could be the highest not only in South Asia but can be compared with other parts of the world as well by selling electricity to India, he pointed out.


The Himalayas in South Asia support 40 per cent of the global human population and climate change is posing a threat to the water source, Prabhu said adding the global community should provide compensation to repair the damage caused by climate change as the South Asian region is not responsible for the damage.


The damage is caused by activities in the industrialised countries, he added.


The power projects being developed in Nepal should first benefit Nepal and its people and India is ready to provide any help in this regard, he pointed out.


Water used for generating hydropower, is non-consumptive use of water and after generating electricity the water can be used for other purposes including for irrigation purposes, he pointed out.


Prabhu was speaking at a seminar on the theme “Water and Energy Resources Development, New Policy Frameworks for Bilateral Cooperation” organised by Nepal-India Friendship Society.


“The 900 MW Arun Third Project had to be aborted one and a half decade ago due to the reservation shown by the World Bank at the last minute which dragged the country to hours of power outage,” recalled Nepal’s Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat.


Now the attitude of the World Bank has changed and it is now ready to finance various power projects in Nepal, he said.


Now some positive developments are happening within the country and international arena as well in the hydropower front, which is very much encouraging, Mahat said.


Now World Bank has shown interest to make investments in Upper Karnali, Upper Marsyangdi, Tamakoshi, Upper Arun and few other major hydropower projects, and these recent developments are changing the entire scenario in hydropower sector in the country, he pointed out.


“We expect that the Indian power companies for timely implementation of the power projects which are being developed by them,” he added.


He also underlined the need to construct high powered transmission lines between Nepal and India to facilitate power trading between Nepal and India.


Besides the ongoing 400 KV Dhalkebar – Mujuffarpur transmission we need two other high voltage transmission lines near the bigger power projects which are under construction, he pointed out.


Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Ranjit Rae said, the recent period has witnessed a transformational moment in the relationship between Nepal and India especially that happened after the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal.


“There is so much goodwill, so much friendship between our two countries and what we need is to work together with greater determination, for the mutual benefit of both the countries and their peoples,” he said.


There is a need for nurturing and sustaining this development in the long run, he added.


“We have made significant strides in our relations post the visit, as we signed the Project Development agreement between GMR India and Nepalese authorities for developing 900 MW Upper Karnali Project,” he pointed out.


Nepal may get rid of its problem of power outages by next year, by importing electricity from India for the time being once the two ongoing works of the two transmission lines will be complete, he added.

(Source: The Economic Times, October 18, 2014)




Given how almost all of the 55,000 MW of power capacity created in the country over the past few years, by way of competitive bidding, is in some form of trouble—either tariffs have been asked for or there is litigation over it—you would think some lessons would have been learned. Instead, as the auction process for two ultra mega power plants (UMPPs) in Odisha and Tamil Nadu which cost around Rs 25,000 crore apiece show, this has not happened and, as a result, private sector players have written to the Power Finance Corporation saying they are withdrawing due to uncertainties over the new bid document. There were, it is true, problems with the earlier agreements in that it was not easy to get a developer out once the contract had been awarded—so the feeling was the developer would use the coal but not meet its contractual obligations.


But, in a bid to fix this, the power ministry seems to have gone the other way while creating a design-build-finance-operate-transfer model. So, the new UMPPs, going by the power companies’ assertions, have stacked most of the powers with the power utility that buys power—the power producers association says there are 27 events of default for the developer and only 3 events of default for the utility. Indeed, even the central electricity regulator had warned against this model saying that since the bidder would not have clear title/ownership, getting loans for the project would be problematic. In any case, as we have seen in the case of power projects which wanted to stop supplies when they did not get a higher tariff, it took one Supreme Court order to restore supplies—so the fear of developers squatting on projects and not meeting their obligations seems a bit overblown.


The other problem the bidding document did not address the issue of cost escalations beyond the control of the developer. This includes not getting clearances on time or fuel prices escalating. A simple solution was to let the cost of coal be a pass-through—in the case of the UMPP based on imported coal—with a coal regulator determining costs. One of the reasons why we are in this mess, of course, is that with regulators not doing their jobs properly, the new bid documents have sought to govern through contracts which, as we have just seen, is a process that cannot work since it lacks the necessary flexibility required in case of delays and cost escalations.

(Source: The Financial Express, October 18, 2014)




The honeymoon period of the new government is over and it is evident that the focus has now shifted towards policies and programmes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spelt out the role the States have to play in the new paradigm of governance.


States can either be drivers of growth or can become “hurdles” in development. Pratap Bhanu Mehta in a recent article ( Indian Express , August 29) rightly observes that a serious challenge to regulatory institutions comes from the States.


For instance, the power regulators, namely, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) and the State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs), have been overly influenced by the Centre and State Governments for more than a decade.


Despite protection of tenure and other safeguards in law, the state regulatory commissions have failed in their mandate of balancing the interest of consumers and producers, or in stimulating competition in the sector. Criticism from different corners, for not being effective as regulators, seems to have had little bearing on their functioning.


Regulators have proved inept in discharging their legal duty of revising tariffs annually. The Appellate Tribunal for Electricity intervened and directed them to do so in 2011.


Perhaps, it was too naive to expect that these institutions, lacking in credibility and institutional strength, could function in a fair manner and effectively carry out their mandate. It is evident that states have not come to terms with regulatory institutions. Not just that, States do not let go of any opportunity to intervene to serve vested or political interests.


Equally, perhaps, the regulators were overwhelmed by the prospect of enforcing efficiencies and timely tariff revisions. No wonder, they preferred to accept the State Governments’ intervention in these matters, as it was the easier option.


Regulatory capture by the States has pushed the power sector into a dire crisis. Losses of the state power utilities (SPUs) touched Rs. 2 trillion in FY2011-12.


As a consequence of the regulatory mess, the power sector has run up a debt of Rs. 5,00,000 crore, to both public sector and private sector banks. These lenders are already grappling with the restructuring of debt of Rs. 200,000 crore to SPUs.


Financial institutions can’t escape their responsibility of becoming “revolving window” for short term loans and consequently building an “overhang” of huge debt which could turn into non-performing assets. Bailing out power utilities has not helped in the past (recall the financial package to them in 2001) and it is unlikely that financial health of the SPUs can be restored, given the current state of regulatory bodies — the fact that they have been reduced to handmaidens of the state governments.


The institutional integrity of the State regulatory commissions should be a matter of great concern. The Supreme Court rightly, in its September 16 order, underlined the danger of interference in the functioning of autonomous bodies in a case relating to the University Grants Commission (UGC). The apex court censured the “intrusive and unwarranted interference” by the government in the functioning of an autonomous body.


The loss of credibility of regulators has adversely affected the power sector. The State Governments do not realise that regulators are expected to deal with investments across the value chain in the industry.


Detailed processes involving tariffs and pricing of electricity are involved. The objective is to balance the interests of all stakeholders, a process that is meant to be driven by observing constitutional principles, fairness, transparency and equity. Unfortunately, States have instead treated the regulator’s job as a “sinecure” for loyal politicians or pliable and favoured officials. The bureaucratic-cum-political nexus has continued over the years and the ministry of power has helplessly watched the same.


Delays, and the absence of credibility, in the appointment of members and chairpersons to these institutions are now commonplace. In a recent report of Forum of Regulators it was revealed that in several States, positions of chairpersons and members are vacant since 2013 with a view to find the so-called “right” persons. In Haryana, the State Government was in a great hurry to select the chairperson of the power regulator, perhaps before the election code was to be enforced.


The incumbent chairman was made to resign a fortnight before his actual tenure was to end. The Ministry of Power was a party to this “administrative coup” in violation of transparency, fairness, equity and reasonableness.


The Modi government’s emphasis on performance will be judged by integrity and autonomy in the selection process.


The States’ tendency to harm to regulatory institutions would defeat the objective of promoting investments in infrastructure and power, from countries like Japan and China.


Will economic regulatory institutions be given genuine autonomy by the States? This is something that the new government has to ensure.


The writer is a former chairman of the Haryana State Regulatory Commission

(Source: Business Line, October 18, 2014)





NEW DELHI: India will set up a new Council on Nuclear Safety to be headed by the prime minister, taking a leap forward towards setting stronger safety standards for nuclear reactors.


In the coming weeks, the union cabinet is expected to approve a pending legislation to set up a Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) for consideration in the coming winter session of Parliament. The new authority will be responsible for regulating radiation and nuclear safety.


The PM-led Council will be in charge of policies with regard to nuclear safety and radiation. The NSRA will be the successor body to the present Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) which will be dissolved. However, this body will not have the powers to inspect and regulate the strategic sector including facilities involved in India’s nuclear weapons programme.


Two recent radiation incidents have influenced the contents of the proposed Bill – the Mayapuri radiological accident of April 2010 and the Fukushima disaster of March 2011.


In the former, an unused gammacell 220 research irradiator, owned by Delhi University, was sold at an auction to a scrap metal dealer in Mayapuri on February 26, 2010. The cobalt-60 item was broken up by people who had no idea of the hazardous nature of the material. The incident was a shocker to the Indian nuclear system even leading to the death of one person and injuries to many.


Subsequently, the DAE worked on amendments to the Atomic Energy Act to strengthen the AERB (set up in 1983) to expand its role in inspection and safe disposal of radioactive material.


Fukushima triggered a fresh set of worries about nuclear safety all over the world — Germany decided to do away with nuclear power while Japan shut down many of its aging reactors. The lessons from this were also incorporated into yet another proposal for a new law and the first proposal for a Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority was drafted in 2011.


The Bill was sent to a standing committee, which made certain recommendations. But this Bill could not be passed by the last Lok Sabha and lapsed. The new government has revived the Bill, indicating a continuity in upgrading nuclear safety.

(Source: The Times of India, October 18, 2014)





NEW DELHI: Suzlon Group has bagged contracts for wind power projects having total capacity of 150 MW, estimated to be worth about Rs 1,200 crore.


The orders have been received from various entities including Malpani Group, Rajasthan Gum Group, KRBL, Sterling Agro Group and an assortment of Small and Medium Enterprises.


“The 150 MW order received is a significant development since it demonstrates renewed customer interest to harness wind energy post the reinstatement of Accelerated Depreciation (AD) policy by the Government of India,” Suzlon said in a statement today.


While the company did not disclose the total value, sources said these projects would be worth Rs 1,000-1,200 crore.


The projects were bagged in the last two months and are scheduled for execution across eight states that have high wind potential.


“These orders have added a fillip to our robust order book. We stand committed to build on our technological edge and offer new age products and best in class services,” Suzlon Group Chairman Tulsi Tanti said.


There are repeat orders from existing customers including Malpani Group, Rajasthan Gum Group, KRBL Group, and Sterling Agro Group.


Among others, KRBL Ltd’s order size is 23.10 MW for a project in Maharashtra while Malpani Group has placed 29.4 MW contract for a plant in Madhya Pradesh.


Suzlon Group is the world’s fifth largest wind turbine maker and has installed generation capacity of over 24,700 MW.

(Source: The Economic Times, October 18, 2014)





NEW DELHI: The government on Friday signalled its intent to auction coal blocks, ending both the uncertainty as well as speculation on the strategy to be adopted after the Supreme Court cancelled the allocation of mines between 1993 and 2010.


“All the coal blocks which have been cancelled…they are being put to auction in the course of the next three months. This is what the power ministry has informed us in the meeting,” said G.S. Sandhu, secretary, department of financial services in the ministry of finance, after a meeting between the finance ministry, power ministry, bankers and power company officials.


At the same time, the power ministry will also approach the cabinet with a proposal to pool prices of imported coal and gas with domestically produced coal and gas. The move is expected to reduce the price and also resolve the fuel connectivity problem, freeing up more than 100,000 megawatts of power generation capacity that has been stuck due to various reasons, including fuel shortages.


All these steps, along with the power sector’s demand for special debt restructuring, are expected to protect the banking industry’s more than `5 trillion exposure to the power sector, Sandhu added.


“We are very hopeful that we will be able to salvage the loans. The power ministry will shortly go to the cabinet for pooling of imported coal with domestic coal and gas pooling. Hopefully, there will be some resolution on that,” he said.


Last month, the Supreme court cancelled the allocation of 214 coal blocks awarded by the government between 1993 and 2010, introducing uncertainty about investments made in these projects and the bank loans extended to their developers. At the same time, the decision opened up an opportunity to streamline coal block allocations in a transparent manner.


Earlier on Friday, power minister Piyush Goyal assured investors that there will be adequate fuel available to power plants.


“We have complete control on the situation. Our plans are in place. There is no reason for anybody at all to be concerned, whether it is investors or power plants or steel plants. Any investments made in the country will be safe,” he said.


“The banks have confidence with the government…I have had some dialogue with some of the banks. They have all gone back completely satisfied and reassured that there is nothing to worry, and this will be under control,” Goyal said.


“I am confident that once appropriate measures are taken post the Supreme Court judgement and our efforts to increase Coal India’s production are in place, I hope to see a situation where the country will be exporting coal,” he added.


On Friday, the finance ministry decided to set up a committee under S.B. Nayar, chairman and managing director of India Infrastructure Finance Co. Ltd, to look into the demands raised by power producers. The committee has been asked to present its report by 7 November.


“Once the committee submits its report, we will take up the issue with the coal ministry, power ministry and Reserve Bank of India (RBI),” said Sandhu. “If still some of the issues are not resolved, we will take it to higher level. We will go to the finance minister.”


Power sector companies have requested banks to urge RBI to allow a special dispensation for loans made to the sector. They asked the government to address the adverse issues faced by them quickly, one of the bankers who attended the meeting said on condition of anonymity.


A special dispensation is restructuring outside the regular banking mechanisms like corporate debt restructuring where the whole industry loan is restructured and no additional provision is charged upon banks. The companies get more time to pay the loans, including, typically, a two-year moratorium on repayments, and the interest rate is reduced considerably.


Bankers are said to have assured the companies that each bank will individually assess the viability of the projects and see if a special dispensation can be sought from RBI.


Sandhu said the government will take up constraints faced by banks with RBI. “Banks are facing some constraints with regards to viability, extra funding, replacing equity with debt in some cases. RBI regulations are barring the banks from going forward,” he said.


In the meeting, the Association of Power Producers made a presentation highlighting the problems faced by the industry. Issues discussed include projects affected by the coal block de-allocation, gas-based projects, power plants with no coal blocks, companies that are facing problems on the power purchase agreements (PPAs) and non-utilization of PPAs, and also companies to whom state electricity boards are not making adequate and timely payments, and the issue of last-mile financing.


Ananda Bhoumik, senior director at India Ratings, said these steps are a part of the efforts by the coal and finance ministries to get the assets back on stream after the Supreme Court judgement.


“A general dispensation for restructuring the loans may not be the optimal solution. And I don’t think that RBI may give that dispensation since they did not take any such steps for loans given for 3G spectrum auction,” he said.

(Source: Mint, October 18, 2014)




NEW DELHI: The government has set an ambitious target of achieving coal production of nearly 1 billion tonnes in the next four years.


“Coal production in the last four years has hardly been growing by 1-1.5 per cent. For the last year I see production going up by about 6 per cent. I have an ambitious target of nearly a billion tonnes in the next four years,” Power and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal told reporters here.


He said, “We together with Coal India can increase coal production to nearly a billion tonnes in the next four years and introduce new technologies to enhance production.”


More than half of thermal power plants, at present, facing fuel shortage due to low coal production in the country.


On asked about the fuel shortage, Goyal said, “I see no reason for power plants to suffer the kind of shortage they are doing now for very long. I am confident that once the appropriate measures are taken post the SC judgement and our efforts to increase Coal India production are in place.”


According to recent data by the Central Electricity Authority, total fuel stocks at 103 coal-based stations have come down to around 73 lakh tonnes.


This 73 lakh tonnes comprise 65.8 lakh tonnes of indigenous coal and 7.06 lakh tonnes of imported fuel.


Coal India has set a target of producing 5,070 lakh tonnes of fuel. The company produced 4,620 lakh tonnes dry fuel, last fiscal.


Goyal today met SAARC energy ministers and said initial discussions have started for setting up an integrated power transmission grid connecting India with its neighbouring nations including Bhutan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

(Source: The Economic Times, October 18, 2014)





KOLKATA: UK-based hedge fund The Children’s Investment Fund Management has sold its entire stake in Coal India.


The Children’s Investment Fund, a chief critic of the government’s control in Coal India’s functioning, had bought 1.8% or 110 million shares in the mining company during the initial public offer in 2010.


“TCI has been gradually paring its stake over the last few quarters and, last week, it sold off the remaining 160,000 shares,” said a senior Coal India official. “Though they were quite vocal in some of the issues like with regard to the pricing of coal, they had made good money on their investment since the IPO,” he added.


In the past, the UK fund has criticised Coal India’s decision to sell coal at cheap rates to power companies under the fuel-supply agreement. Besides, the hedge fund had also filed petitions in the high courts of Delhi and Kolkata, accusing Coal India management of acting against the interest of the minority shareholders by signing the fuel supply pacts.


The Children’s Investment Fund also said Coal India management was responsible for the delay in installation of coal washeries, inefficiency in underground mining, and inability to raise annual production.


Following the exit of the UK fund, Life Insurance Corp of India has become the largest non-promoter shareholder of Coal India with 2.33% stake. The government holds 89.65% stake in Coal India.

(Source: The Financial Express, October 18, 2014)

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