Patna, May 16: Investors wishing to put money in power projects today detailed the roadblocks they are facing while implementing the projects in the state, punching holes in the government’s claims that promotion of the energy sector was high on its priority list.
Several private power players willing to invest in Bihar said they are trapped in a vicious cycle of impediments — tardy land acquisition, lack of incentives and administrative coordination. Entrepreneurs, who were speaking at a panel discussion organised by Bihar Industries Association, slammed the state government for its attitude, which, they said, was leading to slowcoach progress of their projects.
“My proposal for setting up a bio-mass based power plant in Gaya district to produce 30 megawatts (MW) is stuck in a limbo for the past one year and seven months. The project has been approved by the State Investment Promotion Board (SIPB) and by the state cabinet but is waiting for the signing of the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Bihar State Electricity Board. However, the situation is such that people sit on our applications for at least five to six months at whichever department they are being sent,” said K.K. Singh, the chairman of Kumar Tech Product Private Limited.
“Such conditions are prevailing in departments, including the Bihar Renewable Energy Development Agency (Breda), energy department and revenue department. Land acquisition is a major issue due to non-availability of land records. In fact, the state industry department has accepted that it has no land bank in a reply to my Right to Information (RTI) query,” Singh added.
The entrepreneurs accused the government of providing no incentives to private power players. “Our project is to set up a super thermal power plant with the capacity of 2,640MW at Banka district. The Bihar government does not offer any entry tax waiver, including that on coal, to power producers coming from other states. Most other states provide eight to 10 per cent of entry tax exemption in the power sector,” said Neeraj Agarwal, deputy general manager (administration and liaison) at Jas Infrastructure and Power Limited.
“The policy of the state government regarding land acquisition is also very unclear due to which there are instances of multiple owners of a single piece of land. Moreover, there is hardly any coordination between the districts and the headquarters in the capital for land-related issues. It is due to such impediments that it took us four years to acquire 70 per cent of the project land and 30 per cent is still to be acquired,” he added.
Several entrepreneurs also accused the state electricity board of an indifferent attitude towards power investors. “We are working on a project to set up rice straw-based power plants with the capacity of 12MW each at 26 locations across the state. Thus, we would produce 312MW of electricity in Bihar by acquiring 20 acres of land. At present, land has been acquired at three sites and acquisition of land at eight more sites is in the pipeline. Our project has been approved by SIPB but we are not signing a PPA with BSEB as of now because the tariff for renewable energy passed by BSEB in 2008 expired in March 2012. We are waiting for the revised tariff to come into force because the previous tariff was not commensurate with the required investment. All such factors are acting as deterrent for our project,” said Amalendu Sarkar, vice- president (project), PTC-BERMACO Green Energy Systems Limited.
M.L. Sah, chief executive officer of Arissan Power Limited, said: “Government itself is not aware of its land at many places. The firms find out the land details and inform. In case of private land, as many as three to four people claim ownership of the same land. There is no computerised databank of land records, else things would have been a lot simpler.”
U.N. Panjiyar, chairman of Bihar Electricity Regulatory Commission, said all issues raised by the entrepreneurs have been taken into consideration and would be put forward in the next meeting of the SIPB.
The government sought to put the ball in the court of the entrepreneurs and the Centre. Energy minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav told The Telegraph: “Entrepreneurs wishing to set up thermal power plants would have to acquire land on their own as the government does not want to indulge in any kind of controversy. First of all, entrepreneurs should try to get coal blocks or linkage from the Centre, only then we will see what can be done.”