Coal-rich Vidarbha can make Maharashtra power surplus

Nagpur, May 17 (IANS) The Vidarbha region of Maharashtra is all set to transform the power-starved state into a power-surplus one again in the next five years, thanks to a host of upcoming and proposed projects.

Already accounting for over 60 percent of the power generated in the state, the coal-rich central Indian region of Vidarbha will soon boast of a string of new plants with an installed capacity to generate 13,500 megawatt of electricity, officials said.

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The highlight of this ambitious power generation programme is a staggering 8,455 MW unit committed by nine private sector companies, including those of the Adani Group, Ispat’s Central India Power Co. and the Hyderabad based KSK Energy Ventures.

Of the remaining part, as much as 3,400 MW will come from four state government-owned thermal power stations in Vidarbha (in Paras, Khaparkheda, Koradi and Chandrapur) and 1,000 each from the proposed units of state-run National Thermal Power Corp’s proposed plant in Mouda near Nagpur and the special economic zone in Chandrapur.

The Gujarat-based Adani Group of Industries has recently bought 200 hectares of land in the Tiroda industrial area in eastern Vidarbha’s Gondia district for their proposed 2,000 MW thermal power project estimated to cost Rs.80 billion ($1.9 billion).

“The plant erection work is scheduled to start coming September and the first unit should be in place in less than four years”, the group general manager H.M. Choudhury told reporters during a recent visit here. The group will soon buy 300 hectares more for the massive project, he added.

The biggest coal importer in the country that supplies coal to several thermal power plants including those at Koradi and Khaparkheda in Vidarbha, the Adani Group foresees no problem as regards the availability of coal for their Tiroda project.

“We are going to get coal for 1,000 MW power unit from Korba in Chhattisgarh with the help of Gujarat Mineral Corp and will also try to get the mineral from the Western Coalfields Ltd. (WCL) mines in Chandrapur district”, Choudhury said.

While the equally big (2,000 MW) thermal power project of the Ispat Group’s (erstwhile Nippon Denro) Central India Power Co. is coming up in Bhadravati in Chandrapur district, the KSK Energy Ventures has set up its financial arm Wardha Power Co. to construct its 540 MW plant at Warora in Chandrapur district.

The KSK Ventures, which has committed half of the power it will produce to its equity partner Viraj Profiles and the rest to small-scale industrial units in the region, has decided to buy its power plant equipment from China instead of Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd (BHEL), which is booked for the coming two years.

The other companies that have taken concrete steps to set up their power plants in Vidarbha are Jawaharlal Darda Yavatmal Energy (1,215 MW), Nagpur Power and Infrastructure Ltd (1,000 MW), Vibrant Energy and EMCO (500 MW each), Reliance Energy (200 MW) and Abhijit Infrastructure Ltd. (100 MW)

While all the proposed projects including those in the state sector lie in the realm of future, and would, therefore, have been taken with a big pinch of salt by an incredulous people, a chastened state government’s fervent efforts to ease the power crisis have lent credence to their announcement.

A modicum of success that the state’s power establishment has recently achieved in providing some relief to the harried power consumers in the shape of reduced load shedding – there is little or no power cut as of now in cities like Nagpur, Aurangabad and Amravati besides Pune – has whetted the popular optimism.

Even while managing to draw power in bits and snatches from all possible external sources including Gujarat, Haryana and the central pool and stepping up generation in its own Dabhol and Parli power plants, the state government has ensured generation of 2,100 MW in Dabhol by the year end, two-third of which will be available by June end itself.

Determined to do all it would take to wipe off the state’s power shortage in the shortest possible time, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh last week obtained New Delhi’s nod for additional supplies of coal and gas, besides environmental clearances for the state’s upcoming and existing power projects ensuring extra 2,600 MW electricity by next April.

“The state will have up to 6,500 MW more in the next two years,” proclaimed a beaming Deshmukh at the foundation laying function of the KSK Energy Ventures at Warora in Chandrapur district last Friday.

Reaching the site of the proposed 540 MW project (about 100 km from Nagpur) straight from Delhi along with Union Energy Minister Sushilkumar Shinde after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Deshmukh unfolded a virtual calendar of power generation in the state beginning next month.

For the chief minister of the state that suffered a humiliating downslide from its ‘unassailable’ No.1 position in the country owing to its failure to produce a single megawatt as extra power in the last eight years, that was a moment of glory.

Shinde added to the cheer by announcing that the state would get an additional 800 MW from the upcoming Mundra mega power project in Gujarat and that the Centre has cleared its proposed 1,000-MW NTPC plant in Mouda.

When all this happens, hopefully in five years from now, Vidarbha, the designated powerhouse of Maharashtra, will become a major region for electricity generation.