The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tariff hike scare in power deficit

Calcutta, Sept. 14: Set an export target of about 4,000 million units this year, the state electricity board has only managed to sell 867 million in the first five months.

Last year, the board had sold 3,000 million units to other states. The heavy shortfall this year could mean an upward revision of tariffs to offset the loss.

Board officials blamed the deficit on a string of snags at plants run by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and its own units since May.

'This has not only affected our exports to other states, we have also lost credibility in the electricity market,' said the board's member (commercial and HRD), M.K. Roy.

Officials said Bengal had earned considerable goodwill over the past year or so by selling power to states like Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. 'But the way we have been hit by regular breakdown of NTPC and state-run units it will be difficult to keep our goodwill intact. We are already flooded with enquiries from buyers,' said an official.

Orissa's distributing agency, Grid Corporation ' Bengal's nearest competitor ' is now vying for the market.

The drop in exports over the past four-five months has led to speculation that the West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission ' the sole authority to fix power tariff in the state ' may have to hike rates.

An official said in the last financial year, the board earned Rs 634 crore by selling electricity to other states and about Rs 3,600 crore to buyers within Bengal. The target for this year was set on the basis of last year's performance.

'The more the earnings from export, the less the tariff. If our earnings plummet' charges will be hiked,' said the official.

The board and the power department are now desperate to step up generation. NTPC, too, has been asked to ensure more power from Farakka and Talcher. The board's share from NTPC plants is about 622 mw. But since May the central power utility has also been hit by a series of snags.

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