Punjab: Ministers push Captain to review power purchase agreements with private plants

Kanchan Vasdev
captain Amarinder singh, Punjab news, Punjab power plants, Congress, SAD, Amarinder singh, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Chandigarh news, Indian Express

Ministers urged Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to constitute Cabinet sub-committee to review the Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). (File Photo)

A day after the SAD accused the Punjab government of extending “undue benefits” to private power plants, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal raised the matter in Cabinet with other ministers joining in to demand a review of power purchase agreements with these plants.

Badal raised the issue after the Cabinet was done with the agenda items, after which ministers urged CM Amarinder Singh to constitute Cabinet sub-committee to review the Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) — under which Punjab has to pay sustenance charges to three power plants, and to probe the issue of coal washing charges being paid by the government to private plants.

Amarinder, it is learnt, told the Cabinet that Jails Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa had already had sent a detailed letter to him regarding this. Following this Randhawa, O P Soni and Gurpreet Singh Kangar also backed the demand for a probe. The CM is learned to have directed CPS to CM Suresh Kumar to look into the matter. Later, Kumar called an urgent meeting on the issue Thursday evening to discuss the way ahead.

The issue of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) was made a pre-poll issue by the Congress. The party had promised that after coming to power it would terminate the agreements. But the promises was not kept on the plea that there was no legal way to do this.

Sukhbir on Wednesday accused the state government of not pursuing the case against the release of the coal washing charges to the tune of Rs 2500 crore to private plants appropriately in the Supreme Court. Thee state recently lost the case in SC. Following this, power rates in Punjab were increased by 36 paise a unit from January 1 for domestic consumers as power regulator passed on to consumers the burden of additional revenue requirement of Rs 1,320 crore on account of coal washing charges to be paid to Rajpura Thermal Power Plant and Talwandi Sabo Power Plant.

In the second case over coal washing charges, the Congress government’s petition for review of Rs 1,602 crore dispute was rejected by the High Court two days ago because it did not challenge the award of the Tribunal dismissing its application for two and a half years.

The ministers told the Cabinet that in 25 years, the state would end up paying Rs 65,000 crore to these private plants as fixed charged due to the PPAs. The cost of per unit of electricity being paid to these plants is Rs 8 per unit while Haryana was charging Rs 2.50 per unit and Delhi was purchasing power for Rs 3 per unit, they added.

“We demanded from the CM that those officers who vetted the PPA during SAD’s time should be identified and questioned. The PPAs do not have two clauses that could have saved crores of rupees to the state exchequer,” said a minister in the meeting. Cabinet minister Sukhjinder Randhawa said: “Now, Sukhbir is counter-alleging stating Dr. Manmohan Singh’s government’s policy was used for preparing PPAs but Gujarat’s PPAs differ from Punjab. How was Gujarat able to save money and not Punjab?”

He added that private power plants had invested Rs 25,000 crore in the state, but “in five years, we have ended paying Rs 12,967 crore. Only to Nabha plant , set up at a total cost of Rs 10,000 crore, we have paid Rs 6,789.11 crore till date. The clause which said we did not need to purchase 100 percent power was deleted from the PPAs.”

After the meeting, FM Manpreet Badal said that the Chief Minister will form a high-powered committee to see “how all these agreements financially affected Punjab and what could be done to come out of the situation”.“Independent power plants were set up in their government. They can reply what were the terms and conditions. As far as we know, whosoever signed these agreements, either they were blind or blindfolded,” Manpreet said lashing out at the previous SAD-BJP regime.