With around 45,000 MW of power capacity running at sub-60% Plant Load Factor (PLF), servicing their staggering debt of `1.9 trn has become a challenge for India's thermal power producers.
With around 45,000 MW of power capacity running at sub-60% Plant Load Factor (PLF), servicing their staggering debt of `1.9 trn has become a challenge for India’s thermal power producers. To make matters worse, state discoms have been unwilling to sign power purchase agreements (PPAs) with private producers, opting for central and state power utilities instead. The PLF of the private sector’s coal-based plants fell to 56.45% in the ten months to January 2017 from 83.9% in FY10, as per data available with the Central Electricity Authority. The figure stood at 62.60% in January 2016.
The authority estimates that another 50,000 MW capacity would get commissioned over the FY18-22 period. The central and state utilities would account for 50% of this capacity and the private sector for 40%. Unfortunately, things are unlikely to get any better in the near future. “As the short-term power prices are likely to remain benign and discoms are unwilling to sign PPAs, capacities are unlikely to see an increase in PLF going forward,” Salil Garg, Director Corporate at India Ratings, says.
An analysis of the financials of power producers like GMR Infrastructure, GVK Power & Infrastructure, Lanco Infratech, KSK Energy, and Jindal India Power Ltd reveals the state of affairs as far as private power producers are concerned. GMR Infrastructure suffered a loss of `381 crore in the third quarter of FY17 compared with a profit of `40 crore a year ago. Two of its coal-based power plants—GMR Warora Energy Venture Ltd and GMR Kamalanga Energy Ltd—registered an accumulated loss of `3,022 crore as of December 31, 2016. GMR Chhattisgarh Energy, another subsidiary, saw lenders taking control of the project in February by converting `2,992 crore of the `8,800 crore debt into equity.
Lanco Infratech, an infrastructure-cum-power company, incurred a loss of `813 crore for the third quarter ended Dec 31 compared with a profit of `35.19 crore a year ago. The earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) for its power segment dropped 47.24% to `232.10 crore and the revenues fell around 20% to `1,190 crore. The company is looking at options to sell its operational assets. As for GVK Power & Infrastructure, it incurred a net loss of `71 lakh in Q3, compared to a loss of `6.80 crore a year ago. For its single coal-based power plant in the Taran Taran district of Punjab, the company is facing fuel supply issues.
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Another Hyderabad-based power producer, KSK Energy Ltd, saw its losses growing to `17 crore in the third quarter from `14 crore a year ago. The company is believed to be in talks with lenders to refinance its Mahanadi project debt—`11,691 crore of the total `19,000 crore—under the 5/25 scheme of the Reserve Bank of India.
The fall in tariffs in solar and wind segments has compounded problems for thermal power producers. “The drop in tariff for solar projects to `2.97 per unit in the latest bidding in Madhya Pradesh and the levellised tariff of `3.34 per unit would be an additional burden for conventional power generators, as their cost of production has gone up due to cost overruns on fuel supply and environmental clearances,” an analyst with a Mumbai-based foreign brokerage says. The renewable segment is likely to see consolidation going ahead as the government’s target of attaining 175,000 MW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 approaches closer, he adds. As much as 15,000 MW of solar and 9,000 MW of wind capacity creation is likely to be targetted in the new financial year (FY18).