The country’s largest power producer NTPC is willing to take over the operation and maintenance of the Rs 36,000-crore Tilaiya ultra mega power project (UMPPP) in Jharkhand if the government decides to hand over the project to a new operator.
The development comes just a day after Reliance Power announced it is terminating the power purchase agreement (PPA) for the 3,960 MW project, which it won through a competitive bidding process in 2009, due to inordinate delays in land acquisition.
“We have already put our commitment to Patratu project in Jharkhand. We see a new Jharkhand government and new chief minister who is very proactive. NTPC is more than willing to come on board,” NTPC chairman and managing director Arup Roy Choudhury said. He was responding to a question on whether the company would invest in Jharkhand if it is offered the Tilaiya UMPP.
NTPC has aspirations to run UMPPs, but it has so far not succeeded in winning bids in any of the four such projects that have been awarded so far.
The company emerged as the sole bidder for the yet-to-be-awarded Cheyyur UMPP in Tamil Nadu and joint bidder with NHPC for Bedabahal UMPP in Odisha, giving it chance to win the projects.
But the government decided to scarp the bidding for the two UMPPs and now plans to start the process afresh. Interestingly, NTPC was the second-lowest bidder for Tilaiya UMPP as well after Reliance Power.
“The land issue will get resolved with the states coming on board. The next UMPPs that you will see coming on stream will be much more clearer for the bidder to bid in,” Choudhury said.
Earlier in the day, power minister Piyush Goyal said as the Reliance Power’s termination notice for Tilaiya UMPP involved contract entered into by the government and the developer, it is best that the government departments decide further action on the issue.
On Tuesday, government sources had said that the unilateral termination of PPA could be challenged by procurer states after an examination of the contract terms.
Goyal said the government was looking at upgrading old and polluting thermal plants to larger capacity of UMPPs using the cleaner super-critical technology.
This is expected to address twin issues of shortage of power capacity and land and avoid issues of land acquisition that is being faced by projects like Tilaiya. Several of the old plants (25 years of age or more) are sitting on surplus land that could be used to accommodate larger-sized plants of 4000 mw or more.
Financial Chronicle on Monday reported about the government move to operationalise a new policy to replace old and ageing power plants with new larger ones.
“I think it is complete misnomer. It is politics at its worse. People have sought to politicise the issue of land acquisition. My experience is that the moment I say I don’t want to acquire the land, there is so much pressure on me that please acquire the land,” Goyal said.
Asked whether the government is facing problems in acquiring land for other projects, Goyal said: “I don’t think we have problem anywhere. Everything is going on smoothly. You have to sort out issues bilaterally. Sadly, governments in the past could not take decisions and they vacillated on taking decisions. This government is firm and takes decisions quickly.”
The minister said that the government is exploring coming out with UMPPs in a more sustainable format and the proposed ‘plug and play’ mode for future projects would address a lot of issues.
The government proposes to set up five new ultra mega power projects in the plug-and-play mode with a total investment of Rs 1 lakh crore.