Odisha: Scheduled shut down of Darlipali unit raises brows

The first unit of the Darlipali power plant in which the state has a share of 50 per cent power (about 400 MW at 85 per cent plant load factor), has been under maintenance since April 13.
Image used for representation
Image used for representation

BHUBANESWAR: Even as the state battles harsh and above-normal heatwave days pushing the power demand by more than 1,000 MW of the average requirement, one of the two units of NTPC’s 2x800 MW superthermal power station at Darlipali in Sundargarh district has taken planned shutdown for scheduled maintenance much to the exasperation of GRIDCO, the bulk power supplier to the state.

The first unit of Darlipali power plant in which the state has a share of 50 per cent power (about 400 MW at 85 per cent plant load factor), is under maintenance since April 13 when there is a specific instruction from the Power Ministry to shift the planned outages to monsoon season.

“It is not for the first time. Strangely, the management of Darlipali power plant has been taking scheduled shutdown of one unit during the peak of summer in the last three years. During 2022 and 2023 summer when the state was reeling under acute power shortage, one unit of the power station was under repair and maintenance,” said a top official of GRIDCO.

Curiously, permission was granted to the management of Darlipali power plant for maintenance of the first unit shortly after Union Power Minister RK Singh asked power plants to operate at full capacity and shift the planned outages of thermal units to monsoon season during a review of the power situation of the country in the first week of April.

As per the regulations of Central Electricity Authority and orders of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), thermal units have to plan their maintenance schedule during monsoon season when power demand is low.

The state government is not objecting to such an irrational decision of shutting down a unit during peak summer months when power demand across the nation is high and the market rate of power is three to four times more than the average cost of power available from this unit, sources said.

“It may take another 15 days for the Darlipali unit to come back to the state grid by which time the monsoon may have reached Odisha. The loss of cheaper power during summer will impact the bulk power bill of GRIDCO,” the sources added.

With the Meteorological department forecasting a normal monsoon, GRIDCO has been meeting its shortfall from hydropower. It has planned to draw about 600 MW of hydropower in June, they said.

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The New Indian Express