Alarming slippage in meeting energy targets

Recently, Union petroleum minister Veerappa Moily has said that India can become self sufficient in energy front in the next few decades by stepping up the oil and gas exploration efforts and increasing indigenous production. Those who are in the know of things would view such expectations with scepticism.

In the recent past, the implementation of a number of large and medium projects in the country have been heavily delayed, much beyond the targeted commissioning dates. This could either be due to fixing the completion date targets without taking into consideration the ground realities and constraints or sheer inefficiency of the leadership and management of the projects.  In the case of such delayed projects, appropriate and detailed explanation for the delays are seldom communicated to the country and the stake holders and rarely accountability for the delays  are fixed. This is so both in the case of public and private sector.

The most glaring example is the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, which has been delayed by several years and the nuclear power is yet to flow to the grid from this much debated project. The Kochi LNG terminal project which is vitally important for the industrial growth of southern India has been delayed by more than four years and now when the terminal is ready, the pipeline for evacuating the natural gas and supplying it to different destinations in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are not ready.

GAIL India, which is implementing the pipeline project is not sure when the pipleline project would be completed in view of the agitation by farmers in Tamil Nadu and has now approached the judiciary seeking a solution for the impasse. The coal bed methane project in Tamil Nadu is another one where the project is bogged down in controversy due to local agitation.

Government of India fixed a  target of 22,000 mw of solar power generation (both grid based and off grid based) by 2022.  According to the power ministry, more than 90 hydro power projects accounting for 40,000 mw are struck due to some or the other regulatory hurdle.  NHPC’s target for 2021-22 is 10,000 mw of hydro power generation. However, 10 projects of capacity 8,800 mw  by NHPC and its joint venture is awaiting government’s approval. Three hydro power projects of more than 5,000 mw capacity in Arunachal Pradesh, undertaken by Naveen Jindal’s Jindal Power Ltd (JPL) in joint venture, are delayed due to land acquisition and funding issues.

Steep fall

The steep fall  in the production of natural gas in KG basin by Reliance Industries, much below the targeted level, has upset the earlier forecasted production figures and several power and other projects in Andhra Pradesh, built on the expectations of natural gas production from KG basin, now remain shutdown or operating  at low and uneconomic capacity level.

During 2004 and 2009, a committee headed by the Union coal secretary distributed nearly 150 coal blocks.  However, mining happened in only 28 out of the 86 captive coal blocks (private and public)  that were scheduled to take up production during the five year plan period ended  2011-12. And they produced not even half of what was targeted from these blocks. Government of India proposes to issue show cause notice to 32 companies for failing to fulfill the contract obligation, which include private sector companies such as Tata Power and public sector companies  such as SAIL and NTPC.India is paying high price  for such delays, which obviously  should be attributed to  the government’s lack of dynamism in providing clearances and  its inadequate policy initiatives to remove the hurdles, poor forward planning and lack of efficiency at various levels in the management of projects.

It appears that we are reconciling ourselves to such delays, as if they are inevitable. The grim fact is that we seem to lack commitment and sense of pride in adequate measure, which are necessary to achieve the schedules. The country badly needs a new culture where those who fail  to achieve the targets are made accountable and those who achieve the targets are lauded and recognised.

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