Poor quality of Chinese equipment imports to add to power production woes
For years, Indian power equipment manufacturers have been complaining to the government over cheap imports from other countries, especially China. On their part, government did bring in some measures to protect domestic producers, but it was too little and definitely too late. The measures were introduced after most of the orders had been placed, with Indian manufacturers barely getting any.
With a slowdown in China, most of the equipment producers in that country were sitting on idle capacity, as was the case with their counterparts in Europe and US. One of the few countries that were still placing orders for the power sector was India. Rather than protecting and strengthening the domestic producer, government opened up the sector for global players. These players, with idle capacities bid aggressively for Indian orders and managed to secure it at the cost of Indian manufacturers like BHEL.
Chinese companies already commissioned 24,437 MW of power generating units and are currently working towards implementing another 42,000 MW.
Though Indian power producers were lining up for cheaper alternatives from China, a recent report from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) says that there is a violation in operational and safety norms on these equipments.
The report under CEA Chairman AS Bakshi says the Chinese power plants compare poorly on all operation parameters like operating load factor, heat rate, auxiliary consumption, frequency of forced outages, breakdowns along with safety mechanisms.
In power sector, if one looks at the current scenario, there are a number of units that are mothballed due to lack of fuel or lack of demand. Along with this there are orders in place for at least the next five years. Given this scenario, the study done by CEA is of no use and like government policies it is very late in the day to carry out such a study. Little can now be achieved by crying over spilled milk.
Before allowing such companies to enter the country, these parameters should have been collected and highlighted. The tender process should have clearly mentioned these parameters. Even though private players should have ideally carried out a similar study before selecting the buyer, a minimum operating standard of equipments has to be in place, especially since these plants use fuel.
Given the precious nature of fuel in the current context, either available domestically or through imports, it is important to monitor and carefully use it. The inefficient plants will be wasting fuel and foreign exchange. In any case, India has one of the worst transmission and distribution losses in the world and such inefficient plants will only make Indian power production also inefficient. At the end of the day, power generated will work out to be costlier and it is the consumer who will suffer and will be told to bear the burden.