Thursday, March 31, 2011

JSW Energy's price hike plea rejected

But Mahavitaran rejected its petition, after which JSW Energy has moved the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (Merc), seeking a review of the utility's decision.

JSW Energy Ltd has approached Maharashtra's power regulator for permission to increase power tariff after the state government's distribution utility Mahavitaran refused its request. Sajjan Jindal-controlled JSW Energy wanted to hike tariff after the supply of coal for its 1,200MW imported coalbased plant at Jaigad in Ratnagiri district ran into trouble. It approached Mahavitaran when Indonesia's supreme court cancelled the allocation of a mine to the company by the Indonesian government. But Mahavitaran rejected its petition, after which JSW Energy has moved the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (Merc), seeking a review of the utility's decision.

JSW Energy signed an agreement with Merc in 2009 to supply power at '2.71 per unit. The petition filed with Mahavitaran did not say by how much the company wants to raise it now. Mahavitaran rejected JSW Energy's request, saying the company had quoted the agreed rate after taking all commercial risks into consideration. Mahavitaran's managing director Ajoy Mehta confirmed it has rejected JSW's request, but refused to comment further as the matter is pending before the regulator. An email sent to JSW Energy's spokesman on Tuesday remained unanswered. The company has an operational capacity of 1,730MW and projects worth 1,410MW are under construction.

Half the capacity of the 1,200MW Jaigad plant has already become operational. Imported coal-based projects face a wide range of risks, said Kameswara Rao, executive director of international auditing and consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. "While the price risks are covered in pass-through provisions, there are diverse non-price risks which should be assessed by developers when they plan their sourcing strategy or acquire overseas mines," he said. In many cases, he added, developers are in a rush to acquire resources and so don't prepare their bids well.

Maharashtra to create fund for towns affected by power projects

In a bid to placate environmentalists and local residents at the sites of thermal power projects that will together produce nearly 20,000 megawatt (MW), Maharashtra is creating a special fund for infrastructure development in towns and villages where such plants are coming up.

The projects either are in the construction phase or are being planned in the state by both public sector as well as private utilities.

The fund will be created by levying a surcharge on value-added tax (VAT) on the sale of electricity collected from power producers and traders, and electricity duty that consumers pay.

State energy secretary Subrat Ratho said discussions are being held on the level of this surcharge and who should pay. “We expect to complete the discussion in two-three weeks,” he said.

State finance and energy minister Ajit Pawar had announced the creation of such a fund during his budget speech earlier this month, without elaborating.

“As the percentage of surcharge is not fixed yet, it’s difficult to make any guess on the amount that we will be able to collect for the development of project-affected localities,” Ratho said. He said this would be the first such fund by any Indian state.

The tariff will rise but not by a significant amount, he said.

The first such pilot project will be implemented in Chandrapur—a district town in eastern Vidarbha with a population of 350,000 and home to the state super thermal power station (STPS) that generates 2,340MW. It’s owned by state power utility Maharashtra State Power Generation Co. Ltd (Mahagenco), India’s second largest power producer after NTPC Ltd. The estimated cost of the pilot project is Rs.250 crore.

“During my recent visit to the STPS, many elected representatives from the area and members of civil society met me and complained that they are suffering from pollution for the sake of entire Maharashtra but they do not have access to basic amenities like good roads and health services,” Pawar said.

“I found their complaints are justified. So we decided to create a special fund to address the needs of the local population. This fund will not only be used for towns and villages where Mahagenco’s projects are located, but also for private power projects which are coming up in a big way in the state.”

Suresh Chopne, a lecturer at Chandrapur College and president of Green Planet Society, a non-profit organization, said pollution from the thermal power plant was an issue, but a greater menace was the traffic congestion and rising pollution due to movement of trucks that go in and out of STPS supplying coal to the plant or ferrying fly ash. “We need better and wider roads, flyovers in our town to ensure smooth movement of vehicles,” he said. He also demanded a super-speciality hospital to treat people suffering from pollution-related ailments.

According to Vivek Bhide, an activist from the Konkan region, where around 10,000MW of thermal power projects are coming up, said the water discharge from JSW Energy Ltd’s 1200MW project at Jaigad in Ratnagiri district contains sodium chloride and has contaminated the groundwater.

An email query sent to a JSW Energy spokesperson remained unanswered.

Shantanu Dixit of Pune-based think tank Prayas Energy Group that specializes in energy-related issues said the government move is welcome, but “we also need to see the impact on the cost of power for consumers”.

According to him, before sanctioning any thermal power projects, environmental-impact assessment should be carried out for the entire region where projects are coming up. Currently, individual projects are being assessed independently, he said.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Seismicity aspect of Jaitapur considered: Ramesh

Seismicity aspect of Jaitapur considered: Ramesh
PTI | 10:03 PM,Mar 16,2011

New Delhi, Mar 16 (PTI) Amid concerns over safety of Jaitapur nuclear plant, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh today said seismicity aspects have been taken care of while giving clearance to it but he was not sure whether tsunami factor had been considered. He said the government was awaiting the results of technical review of atomic plants being carried out by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India before deciding on imposition of any new conditions on Jaitapur plant to be built with French collaboration. "As far as seismicity is concerned... ground level seismicity is concerned... I think, those factors are taken into account," Ramesh told reporters on the sidelines of a function here. Asked about tsunami aspect, he said he could not "recall" if tsunami was factored into the environment clearance process. "I don't think in Jaitapur, a tsunami probability has been taken into account," he added. He underlined that the Government would not deliberately put a power plant at the high seismic zone. He noted that the last tsunami hit the Arabian Sea cost in 1945. To a question, Ramesh said his Ministry's mandate was only look after the enviromental impact and the issue relating to the radio active waste management was the responsibility of the AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) and Nuclear Energy Council. "The internal safety designs, the internal management of the nuclear islands is something that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board look after," the Minister said. Ramesh said post-Japan tsunami, if there needs to be a relook on some of the safety regions about nuclear power plants, it is the mandate of the AERB. "I am not the competent authority," the Minister said. On imposing additonal conditions in Jaitapur, he said the Government was waiting for the technical review being carried out by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited. "Based on the safety review, we will see there is need for additonal studies that need to be done," the Minister added.