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Private firms shun invitation

- Surplus power hopes dim

Shillong, Jan. 3: Meghalaya’s hopes of becoming a power surplus state have suffered a setback with lukewarm response to the state government’s invitation to private players to develop as many as 75 small hydel projects.

“Only a few private companies responded to the expressions of interest (EOIs),” additional chief secretary (power), B.K. Dev Varma, said today. The EOIs were floated in two categories for projects between zero and 25MW and between 25MW and 100MW, with a total capacity of around 567.91MW.

Following the poor response, the power department is looking to modify the terms and conditions of the bid document to ensure a good number of players in the bidding process. “Perhaps, the EOIs were not that attractive and we will have another look at the terms and conditions of the bid documents,” Dev Varma said. An empowered committee will also find out the reason over the lack of participation from private firms.

Of the 75 small hydel projects, 36 are below 2MW capacity to be built on small streams and produce up to 5.41MW. While 22 projects below 10MW would be executed in river basins with a total capacity of 83.5MW, 10 projects below 25MW are proposed on bigger streams, with the total generation capacity of around 168MW. Another seven projects between 25MW and below 100MW are to be developed on big rivers, which can generate up to 311MW.

A few years ago, the government inked a deal with different private firms to develop both hydel and thermal power projects but the progress of most of them has been tardy.

The government handed over two big projects of 450MW each — the Kynshi hydel project Stages I and II — to two private developers, Athena Energy Ventures Pvt Ltd and JayPee Group. Both projects will be constructed over the Kynshi river in West Khasi Hills district.

The government also allotted to the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (Neepco) the 85MW Mawphu Stage II project in East Khasi Hills. The project is coming up between Sohra and Mawsynram, which receive very high rainfall. Former Union power minister M. Verrappa Moily had laid the foundation stone for the project in September 2012.

According to the additional chief secretary, most of the private companies are engaged in technical studies and survey of the project sites.

Even after over four decades of statehood, Meghalaya has been able to build only one hydel project: the Myntdu-Leshka project in Jaintia hills, whose three units generate 42MW each.

The Umiam project, built prior to statehood during the 1960s when Meghalaya was under undivided Assam, has a total capacity of 186MW.

Over the years, the gap between power supply and demand in Meghalaya has increased, turning it into a power-deficit state. Once, Meghalaya used to supply power to the neighbouring state of Assam. According to rough projections, the demand for power would touch 900MW by this year. Meghalaya depends on power purchase from outside and spends between Rs 230 crore to Rs 240 crore annually.

The state will also get a share of 79MW from the two units of the Palatana project in Tripura. The first 363MW unit of the project in Tripura’s Gomati district has become operational after generation stopped for a few months. From the first unit, Meghalaya will get 39.5MW power. The 726.6MW gas-based thermal power plant is expected to cater to the needs of the power-deficient northeastern states. The second 363MW unit will also start generating soon. But the power-starved state is in a debt trap at present. The state-owned Meghalaya Energy Corporation Ltd (MeECL) has unpaid dues of nearly Rs 300 crore to PSUs like Neepco, National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd and National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Ltd. Neepco has already regulated power supply to the power utility owing to non-payment of outstanding dues.

Dev Varma said the government has adopted a financial restructuring plan so MeECL can avail of 25 per cent financial assistance from the Centre as well as 75 per cent from financial institutions in the form of loans. “We have briefed the Union power ministry about the initiative and are waiting for a response,” he said.


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