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DPL snag drops generation to zero

Jan. 5: Power generation by the state-owned Durgapur Projects Limited has come down to zero because of a glitch in two modern units and cost overrun-related production freeze in three old ones, pointing to the need of upgrading Bengal’s outdated electricity plants.

The state’s main generation utility, the West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited (WBPDCL), too, has been grappling with old age-related problems for the past few summers.

DPL has not produced electricity since Tuesday, when the unit Nos. VI and VII, which became operational in 2008, developed snags for the third time in two months apparently because of overloading. Both the units got out of order around the same time.

The two units, developed with Chinese technology, cannot be repaired locally. A team of DPL engineers who had been trained in China to handle the two units left the company after returning from that country.

On the previous occasions when the units had developed glitches, experts from outside the company had to be hired for the repairs, resulting in huge expenses and delay in restarting production.

Three other units —III, IV and V — have been lying idle for the past two months as the 40-year-old facilities guzzle fuel because of depreciation, escalating production costs.

These units generate power at a cost of Rs 5.50 a unit, while the utility sells electricity at Rs 4.19 per unit.

As a result, DPL has been buying 160MW of power daily from the West Bengal State Electricity Transmission Company Limited and central utilities to meet the demand. The peak demand during this time of the year is 220MW. The peak summer demand is 300MW.

When all five units are operational, DPL can produce 490MW of electricity, much below the capacity of 641MW. The three units set up in 1964 have a combined capacity of producing 231MW but had generated around 80MW for years before falling into disuse.

DPL sources said the snag-hit VI and VII units would take at least a fortnight to be repaired.

“We are regulating power supply to various areas of the town (Durgapur) as it is not possible to buy the entire quantum required,” said a senior DPL official who did not wish to be named. DPL supplies electricity to Durgapur and its adjoining areas.

A power department official said a 250MW under-construction unit was expected to begin production from the end of this year.