Even as Essar Power seeks tariff hike to revive its 1200 MW imported coal-based power plant at Salaya in Gujarat after the apex court denied compensatory tariffs to power plants based on imported coal, the company has started exploring options to import coal from countries other than Indonesia to reduce the impact of higher coal price. The higher cost of coal has led to high under recovery of around 55 paise per unit at the Salaya plant, leading to complete wipe-out of its net worth in the last five years.
Sources familiar with development told Financial Express, that Essar Power is evaluating coal sourcing from Russia, Mongolia, Cambodia, China and Australia to isolate its Salaya plant from the current volatility of coal price.
The company, is negotiating the landed price of coal through reverse e-auction method to arrive at cheaper options instead of spot market price. At present, the landed price of coal from Indonesia is around $85 per tonne, which has more than doubled in the last six months.
Salaya plant has the capability to process around 30 different type of coal, which it plans to optimise for its best use, sources said. Essar Power Gujarat, the special purpose vehicle of Essar Power operating the Salaya plant has lost close to Rs 2,500 crore since 2012, while the project cost has increased from Rs 4,820 crore to Rs 5,832 crore in the same period.
Total debt of Essar Power Gujarat for the 1200 MW plant has increased from Rs 3,615 crore to Rs 5,062 crore in the last five years. The company has infused additional equity of Rs 1,400 crore to the original equity of Rs 1,205 crore to support the project, still the net worth got wiped out to Rs 126 crore from the original Rs 1,205 crore since 2012. The company has sought hike in tariff to the extent of increase in imported coal cost excluding the fixed cost.
“The government should link the tariff to the market price of imported coal, if the price moves up the tariff should subsequently move up to compensate for the increase in price,” the sources said.
The company has also requested the State Electricity Regulatory Commission to use its power as an “Appropriate Commission” to regulate electricity purchase and procurement process, including the price at which electricity should be procured from the generating company for supply within the state. The power to regulate tariff of the state commission, includes power to determine the tariff and power to determine tariff includes power to increase or decrease tariff for a sufficient cause, the company wrote in a letter to additional chief secretary, energy and petrochemicals department, government of Gujarat. The company as part of resolution of the crisis has offered 51% equity to the state discom Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam at nominal value of R1. However, there has not been much progress as of now.
The company in the interim may look at restructuring its Rs 5,800 crore debt at Salaya to reduce the borrowing cost believed to be at 14%. Sources said, the company may look at rescheduling the principal repayment and refinancing of the interest cost from 14% to 9% till the time the resolution is arrived at.