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Private power debut with Tata rural run

Jamshedpur, July 8: Tata Power has decided to run a pilot project to supply electricity to a village near the city, becoming the first private player prepared to enter the sector in the state.

If the experimental project yields positive results, the company will extend the exercise to more rural areas.

Tata Power, which generates about 307 MW now, has firmed up plans to step up output by 120 MW by the end of October 2005. The company also plans to provide power to other parts of the country through the local grid of the Power Grid Corporation of India.

The announcement of the Tatas’ entry into the state power sector came after energy minister Lal Chand Mahato held talks with chief executive officer (eastern zone) of Tata Power, Ashok Uppal, at the state capital this morning.

“Tata Power is keen to provide power in the rural belt of the state. It is a welcome step by the company. It will help immensely if private parties come forward to help the state government in ensuring that power reaches the rural population,” Mahato said.

The minister added that Tata Power would initially take up electrification of one village near its plant in the city. “If this experiment proves fruitful, company officials have assured us that it would have no hesitation in electrifying other villages of the state. The state government would render its cent per cent support to see to it that Tata Power does not face problems in providing power to that hamlet,” Mahato said.

The energy minister has asked Tata Power officials to place a written proposal before the ministry as soon as possible. “We have placed a condition that the tariff of the company should be on a par with that of the Jharkhand State Electricity Board (JSEB). Or else, it will not be possible for the state government to allow Tata Power to take up such projects,” Mahato added.

The JSEB sells power to rural areas for Rs 30 a month without any meter system. But the pace of the board’s rural electrification had been extremely slow.

Commenting on the rural pilot project, Tata Power’s Uppal said: “Things are at a nascent stage. It will not be possible to divulge any details at this juncture.”

Tata Power is understood to have identified the hamlet for the pilot project. “There are about 170 houses in that village and the power company will maintain the overhead wires and other infrastructure, apart from supplying power in the village,” a source said.

Energy ministry sources said the state government has planned to undertake electrification of about 15,000 villages by the end of next year.

“It will help the state government in a big way, if Tata Power comes forward to provide power in some of the villages. We have to wait and see how the company’s experiment comes off,” a senior official of the ministry said.

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