After requesting the electricity regulator to enhance the tariff, Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) now wants to burden the consumers further to recover Rs 391 crore it has paid as fine for taking coal out of the Pachwara mine in Jharkhand.
Cancelling all coal-block allocation because of a scam during the previous central regime, the Supreme Court had fixed Rs 295 as additional compensation for every metric tonne of coal extracted and used. The amount in Pachwara’s case was Rs 1,190 crore roughly; but being 26% shareholder in PANEM Coal Mines, a joint venture with EMTA, the corporation had to deposit Rs 391 crore, or 26% of the payable sum.
EMTA and PANEM, which operate the coal mine for the corporation, declined to pay their share of the fine but the corporation had to, for it was a pre-condition for fresh coal-block allocation under the new auction policy. It raised the money from loan, and now has requested Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) to pass the interest cost to consumers.
A section of the PSPCL engineers said that PANEM should foot the entire compensation bill, as the Supreme Court order says the fine has to be deposited by the company that operated the mine. However, the PSPCL management said it would not have been allocated the Pachhwara (central) coal block again had it not deposited the amount by December 31, 2014. It said it had acted in consumer interest.
“The Pachhwara block is vital to the PSPCL to meet the coal requirement of its power-generating stations in the state. Not getting it would mean a huge difficulty in getting cheap fuel for the plants, and more burden that consumers must share,” the PSPCL mentioned in it petition to the regulator.