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Shift in thermal power strategy

Calcutta, Dec. 17: The ministry of power plans to set up thermal stations of around 3,000-4,000 mw capacity either along the coastline or at pithead sites to supply energy to more than one state. The shift in the ministry’s thermal power generation strategy is prompted by the ongoing fuel shortage that has taken a toll on the sector.

The power ministry has directed the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) to identify coastal and pithead sites to set up these mega thermal stations.

Senior power ministry officials said the CEA has been asked to complete the exercise within three months. “They are already on the job,” they added.

It is necessary for the UPA government to speed up the process of setting up new power plants to provide power to all by 2012. The government is also in talks with banks and financial institutions to lend money to the sector.

In a parallel move to speed up power generation in the country, the ministry has decided to invite private sector players to develop ultra mega power projects.

Each of these plants is expected to generate between 5,000 mw and 10,000 mw of power. All these projects will be coal-based and are likely to be set up on the coastline.

Among the private players, Reliance Energy has already announced plans to develop a 12,000-mw coal-based power project in Orissa at an estimated cost of Rs 48,000 crore.

This would be the world’s largest pithead coal-based power plant at a single location.

The Eleventh Five-Year Plan is expected to add 60,000 mw of additional power to grid, while the Tenth Plan will add 35,000 mw against the targeted 40,000 mw. The shortfall will be made up through expansion and by bringing the captive generation capacity in the country to the grid.

Meanwhile, the government has zeroed in on five variants of the franchisee model for executing rural electrification projects. The models are being test-run in Orissa, Assam, Karnataka, Bengal and Nagaland.

The power ministry plans to replicate the successful models across the country on a larger scale to achieve complete household electrification over the next five years.

Sources said the ministry, which is betting heavily on the franchisee model whereby local bodies such as co-operatives, individual entrepreneurs and panchayats are involved in the execution and management of rural electrification projects for a fee, has started work on site-specific models.

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