Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu on Friday called for bringing in a new law to revoke the power purchase agreements (PPAs) signed during the tenure of previous SAD-BJP government.
As Punjab reels under an unprecedented power shortage, Sidhu, in a veiled attack on Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, said there would be no need for him to go for power cuts or to regulate the office timings if the state acts “in the right direction”.
Posting a series of tweets on the power issue, the former minister said the PPAs were against the state's public interest and called for bringing in a law to nullify it.
Sidhu has been at loggerheads with the Chief Minister and has attacked him over a host of issues in the past.
“Truth of Power Costs, Cuts, Power Purchase Agreements & How to give Free & 24 hour Power to the People of Punjab:- 1. There is No need for Power-Cuts in Punjab or for the Chief Minister to regulate office timings or AC use of the Common People ... If we Act in the right direction,” said Sidhu, who earlier this week met Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra amid continued infighting in the Punjab Congress.
The state government on Thursday ordered reduction in timings of state government offices from Friday and cut down on power supply to high energy consuming industries.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had also appealed to all government offices to make judicious use of electricity in government offices, adding that the situation was dire as the peak demand in the state had touched a whopping 14,500 MW.
Regarding the PPAs approved by the former government, Sidhu said, “Punjab can purchase power from National Grid at much cheaper rates, but these [during SAD-BJP government] Badal-signed PPAs are acting against Punjab's Public Interest. Punjab may not be able to re-negotiate these PPAs due to them having legal protection from Hon'ble Courts, But there is a way forward”.
He said the Punjab Assembly can bring in a new legislation with retrospective effect to cap power purchase costs to prices available on the National Power Exchange at any given time.
“... Thus, By amending the Law, these Agreements will become Null & Void, saving People of Punjab's Money,” he said in another tweet.
Notably, Punjab's main opposition party AAP had on Monday also alleged that "faulty" PPAs signed during the previous government's tenure were adversely affecting the state's power utility.
Sidhu batted for an “original Punjab model” while mentioning that the state's potential from solar and biomass energy remains unutilised.
He said renewable energy is becoming cheaper along with being environmental-friendly, but Punjab's potential from solar and biomass energy remains underutilised even though the Centre's financial schemes can be availed for these projects.
“PEDA (Punjab Energy Development Agency) spends its time just on energy efficiency awareness. Punjab already gives 9000 Crore Power Subsidy but Delhi gives only 1699 Crore as Power Subsidy.
“If Punjab copies Delhi Model, we will get merely 1600-2000 Crore as Subsidy. To better serve the People of Punjab - Punjab needs an Orignal Punjab Model, Not a copied Model !!,” he tweeted.
Giving a “Punjab Model for Power”, he said “money spent on giving unreasonable & exuberant profits to Private Thermal Plants should be utilized for welfare of People, that is Giving Power Subsidy for Free Power for Domestic use (Upto 300 Units), 24 hours supply & to invest in Education & Healthcare !”
Meanwhile, Sidhu gave a lowdown on power purchase costs by pointing out that Punjab is buying power at an average cost of Rs 4.54 per unit, which is much higher than the national average of Rs 3.85 per unit, while adding that the state's “over-dependence on 3 Private Thermal Plants at Rs 5-8 per unit makes Punjab pay more than other states”.
On the PPAs with the three private thermal power plants in Punjab, the cricketer-turned-politician said, “Till 2020, Punjab has already paid 5400 Crore due to faulty clauses in these Agreements and is expected to pay 65,000 Crore of Punjab People's Money just as fixed charges”.
“Punjab's revenue per unit of consumption is one of the lowest in India, due to gross mismanagement of the complete power purchase & supply system ... PSPCL (Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd) pays Rs. 0.18 per unit “Extra” on every unit supplied, even after receiving over 9000 Crore in Subsidy from the State,” he said.