Companies That Can Light India

Power can single-handedly black out ‘India Shining’. However, the two public sector companies in power generation business along with BHEL, the third one manufacturing the power equipment are keeping the hope, that one day very soon India can very well leave behind the problem, alive.

National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is the largest thermal power generating company in India. Further, based on 1998 data, UK industry research body, Datamonitor, placed NTPC as the 6th largest in terms of thermal power generation and second most efficient in capacity utilisation worldwide.

NTPC has built a generating capacity of 26,404 MW from 14 coal-based (21,395 MW), seven gas-fired (3,955 MW) and four joint venture projects (1,054 MW). NTPC accounts for 19.51% of India’s generation capacity and contributed 27.68%of total power generated during 2005-06. By 2017, NTPC will have a capacity of over 66,000 MW.

Besides, generating its own capacity, NTPC is also nursing 15 power plants to attain their capacity as part of Centre’s ‘Partnership in Excellence’ programme. Be it UP’s Unchahar, Delhi’s Badarpur, Orissa’s Talcher, UP’s Tanda, Jharkhand’s Tenughat and Tamil Nadu’s Ennore, NTPC is helping to bring the back to working to respected PLF. For example, PLF (plant load factor, or capacity utilisation) in Tenughat was raised from 40% to 75% without any investment. Bihar has sought help for Muzaffarpur power unit and Kanti, steelmaker SAIL has handed over its captive plants and Railways has tasked NTPC with setting a new 1,000 MW plant at Nabinagar in Bihar. NTPC is going global too with orders from Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. The order book lists 384 domestic and international clients.

NTPC has ventured into hydel projects and is setting up three projects in Himachal Pradesh totaling more than 2,000 MW. And very soon with US-India’s Nuclear Deal in place, NTPC will go in nuclear power too. NTPC is also in coal mining and oil/gas exploration to secure future fuel supplies. Very few people may know that this year, NTPC is poised to become the country’s second biggest coalminer from its captive blocks after flagship Coal India Ltd.

National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) will expand its capacity to 10,000MW by 2012. In last 30 years it could build less than 4,000 MW of capacity, averaging only 130 MW a year. NHPC aims to add on average over 1,200 MW a year for the next five year. And further, it is already talking of over 20,000 MW by 2017.

Hydro is capital-intensive as it requires investment of about Rs 5 crore per MW compared with Rs 3-4 crore for a thermal plant. It is time-intensive too, and takes almost five years to complete against three-four years for thermal plants. However, hydropower is environment-friendly (unlike coal and gas based ones) and tariffs reduce, as the plant grows older, touching almost zero after a few years.

With 150,000 MW hydro potential of which only about 20 per cent has been realised so far in the country, why should the government and so its company not think big? NHPC will require an investment estimated at Rs 30,000 crore by 2012 even to meet its present plan. Many other private companies can help in building the hydro plants. And the government must open. However, all projects must work strictly under a timeframe and must attract heavy penalty for not meeting the target.

Can these two companies meet the total requirements? ‘Certainly not’ can be the only sane answer. State monopolies must end in power sector. It is the reason of the shortfall of about one-third of the target of capacity addition target of 41,000 MW during the Tenth Five Year Plan. India can’t afford any slippage from the target any more The two mega-projects of 4,000 MW have recently gone to private companies, and that gives the hope that India will soon light up. Let there be at least 10 companies to compete in power generation and evacuation.

The hardest nut to crack is going to be the problem of power pilferage. For every 100 units produced, the consumers pay for only about 60. The rest is lost in transit, of which more than half relate to plain theft. And that requires a lot of political will and consensus for that.

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