| New lease of life
New Delhi, Sept. 23: Power minister Anant Geete has finally pressured National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to accept operational responsibility for crisis-ridden Dabhol Power Company (DPC).
After persistent pressure from the office of the power minister, the public sector unit has agreed to assume responsibility for operational maintenance of the 744 megawatt Dabhol project. However, NTPC has made it clear that it will not take over financial responsibility. “We have formally accepted the proposal. We expect the process of outlining the strategy to begin by next month. But, it will not be possible for us to assume financial responsibility of Dabhol. This will have to be managed by the company that takes over the whole management activity,” said a senior official in NTPC.
“We will have to employ around 200 officials to manage the project. The company will have to pay them salary and other benefits. These and other issues, like payment for our services, will have to finalised before we undertake operational activities,” NTPC sources said.
Meanwhile, discussions with Indian financial institutions are at an advanced stage to take over Dabhol Power, provided NTPC formalises the agreement to run the utility.
The financial institutions have suggested that they are “on the look out for a company which will either buy equity from them or become an operations and maintenance contractor. The institutions will be meeting soon to debate the fate of the plant,” sources said.
Recently, Tata Power Company (TPC) had evinced interest in buying US energy major Enron’s stake in the $ 3-billion Dabhol Power Company “if it makes sense for the company to buy”. Tata group chairman Ratan Tata had recently said, “We are watching Dabhol developments closely and will think of buying it if it makes sense for us.”
He said DPC’s 2,184-MW project (which includes the second phase which has never been commissioned) was a liquefied natural gas-based project and, therefore, had a high tariff. “Somebody would have to buy it if the promoters were getting out of it. Tata was answering shareholders’ persistent queries and suggestions that TPC should take up the energy major’s $ 1-billion “at cost” offer and buy out the power plant, which was ideally located, close to Mumbai.
“TPC would involve itself in this matter only after the imbroglio over payment of $ 48 million between DPC and its estranged partner Maharashtra State Electricity Board was sorted out,” sources in the company said.