Consumers will keep paying Dabhol for non-existent power
It seems consumers will have to continue to pay 17 paise per unit for the closed Dabhol power plant in years to come. Due to shortage of natural gas in the country, there seems to be no realistic possibility of restarting the plant. As output from Reliance’s gas fields has reduced drastically, the plant is not getting any gas. The empowered group of ministers (EGoM) was supposed to find a solution to the problem but it has not devoted much time to it as the situation is hopeless.
A MSEDCL officer told TOI that the lenders, who financed the restart of plant, are despondent and had written to petroleum and union power ministries to divert some gas meant for other power plants to Dabhol so that at least one of the three blocks could start generation. “The power ministry first asked petroleum ministry to anyhow supply the gas. However, it was told this was just not possible. Power ministry rejected the demand for diversion as most of the gas-based plants are not getting even half the gas they need and reducing their share further would lead to protests from the companies and their consumer states,” he said.
Ratnagiri Gas and Power Private Limited (RGPPL), the company that runs Dabhol, owes over Rs 8,500 crore to a consortium of banks that include ICICI Bank, IDBI Bank, SBI and Canara Bank. ICICI Bank is the lead lender. The plant has completely stopped generation since July 15 last year for want of gas. The only source of revenue is the 17 per unit that MSEDCL pays to RGPPL, whether or not any power is generated. The company is unable to repay its loans through this meagre amount.
The official further said that the plant needed about 3 million standard cubic metres per day (mmscmd) gas for one block. “This gas must be supplied at the rate at which NTPC and other companies get it. Otherwise, the cost of power will be so much that MSEDCL would not be able to buy it. Even otherwise, Dabhol power was the costliest,” he said.
According to the official, most of the gas available in the country was being supplied to fertilizer plants. “The allocation to fertilizer sector has been capped but even then, very little is available for power sector. Even though the supply will increase gradually, there is no possibility of Dabhol getting gas in coming two to three years,” he added.