Even as stressed assets with a combined capacity of 32 gigawatts are on the verge of insolvency — another 7-gigawatt capacity is already undergoing the insolvency process at the National Company Law Tribunal — these power companies are finding it hard to recover dues from procuring states in time.
According to data available with the power ministry’s ‘praapti’ portal, the state-run discoms owed 10 generators ù seven private and three state-owned — Rs 26,500 crore as of August-end. Of this, Rs 17,760 crore is due to independent power producers (IPPs), Rs 4,340 crore to state-owned NTPC and the balance to firms like NHPC, DVC, SJVNL etc.
If the so-called regulatory dues of Rs 18,500 crore is included, the outstanding amounts by the discoms to IPPs alone would be a staggering Rs 36,260 crore.
Generators are privileged to report payment defaults of more than 60 days to the government on a voluntary basis.
The total payment defaulted by discoms, according to industry sources, could be even higher as several producers haven’t reported the outstanding amounts. Major companies like Tata Power, Adani Power and GMR Energy, among many others, for instance, haven’t uploaded the latest status of discoms’ unpaid dues to them.
While the stressed IPPs and the state-run generators are left high and dry by discoms, the latter have shown sharper reductions in their financial losses. The discoms had posted an annual reduction of Rs 17,352 crore (50%) in their losses by the end of March 2018, under the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) scheme. Had the payments to the gencos been made in time, the picture would have been less rosy for discoms.
Majority of the outstanding is for five states — Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
The power companies are facing difficulty in recovering the dues from discoms at a time when the Supreme Court is hearing a batch of petitions against a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) circular that makes it mandatory for lenders to take firms to the insolvency arena in case they failed to come out with a resolution plan within six months after first (a day’s) default.
After including the power units before NCLT and those under the threat of getting dragged to these tribunals shortly, the stressed power projects are worth over Rs 2.5 lakh crore.
In a recent letter to Cabinet secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha, the Association of Power Producers wrote: “… It is impossible for any developer to keep his assets in bank’s ‘standard’ category, in an eco system which stipulates default even if there is just one day’s delay in payment of interest or principal (sic); and all payments for inputs are to be made in advance (coal/evacuation of coal), while at the same time the output payments are delayed beyond 6 months and are progressively increasing — this amount has shown an increase of 40% in the last 4 months.”
The power companies want a prompt payment mechanism with regard to change-in-law items (regulatory dues). Recently, the Union power ministry has directed the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission to compute the increase in tariffs that additional (post-power purchase agreement) taxes and duties would have necessitated within 30 days after a generator filed the petition for such a revision. Once a generator’s plea is accepted under ‘change-in-law’ condition, other generators with the same demand should also get similar benefits, without filing separate petitions, the ministry said.