Auction of fresh coal linkages under SHAKTI positive for power sector: Study

The high base tariff discount and 90 per cent cap on quantity under the third round of auction are negative for the IPPs.

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The auction of coal linkages under the SHAKTI policy to independent power projects (IPPs) will have a positive impact on coal-based power plants, rating agency ICRA said. The Central Government has recently notified the third round of auction for an award of coal linkages under SHAKTI (Scheme for Harnessing and Allocating Koyala Transparently in India) policy to independent power projects having long-term PPAs. The government has proposed the minimum tariff discount to be quoted by the bidders for securing coal linkage at 7 paise per unit.

“The latest discount is higher than 1 paise per unit base discount set under the first round of auction held in September 2017 and 4 paise per unit base discount set under the second round of auction for coal linkages held in May 2019. The base discount for the third round of auction is equal to the bid discount discovered in this second auction,” ICRA said. Commenting on the auction terms, Sabyasachi Majumdar, Group Head & Senior Vice President, ICRA, says, “On the positive side, the availability of coal linkage would enable the plants to declare normative availability allowing recovery of fixed charges and improve their merit order position.”

Moreover, the winning bidders can offset the discount offered in tariff to some extent through efficiency gains in station heat rate and auxiliary consumption. Further, the higher discount in tariff would be positive for the distribution utilities. “On the flip side, the increase in base discount is negative for coal-based power projects, given that most of the coal-based assets without fuel linkages are financially stressed. They are also likely to be facing under-recoveries in fixed charges under their PPAs because of a significant increase in project capital cost and fine tariffs quoted under the competitive bidding for securing long-term PPAs,” he said.

For instance, the reduction in tariff by 7 paise per unit at a 60 per cent PLF level for a coal-based power project with a capital cost of Rs. 7.5 crore per MW and having long-term PPA for the entire capacity, would reduce the debt service coverage by 0.05 times over the debt repayment tenure and IRR by 50 bps.

Previously, under the second round of auction, there was a restriction on participation from developers, who had won linkage in the first auction. However, there is no such restriction under the third round of auction. As per ICRA estimates, about 3.5 GW of coal-based capacity having long-term PPAs and without corresponding fuel linkage, would be eligible to participate in this auction. However, the maximum quantity of coal that can be allocated has been capped at 90 per cent of the requirement at 85 per cent PLF. Considering a supply rate of 75 per cent of the contracted quantity from the coal companies, the linkage coal would be sufficient to meet about 68 per cent of the winning bidder’s normative fuel requirement.

According to ICRA, the domestic coal production by Coal India witnessed a decline of 3.9 per cent in the first 10 months of FY2020 on a Y-o-Y basis. This is being attributed to the extended monsoon season and the labour issues for CIL. As a result, the supply from CIL to power sector declined on a Y-o-Y basis. However, the impact of this decline on thermal power generation remains limited so far, given the slowdown in electricity demand growth as well as higher supply from other generation sources like hydro, nuclear and renewables.

India’s thermal power generation declined by 2.8 per cent in the first ten months of the current financial year on a y-o-y basis, with the demand growth slowing down to 1.3 per cent during the period as compared to a growth of 5.7 per cent in the corresponding period last fiscal.

The domestic coal production would have to be ramped up to meet the incremental demand driven by the expected improvement in electricity demand growth, an award of fresh coal linkages, and given the government’s objective to reduce dependence on costlier importer coal. Along with the higher production, this would require augmentation of the rail transmission infrastructure to ease the logistic issues for coal supply.

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