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CESC Mulajore unit to be shut down by Dec

Indrani Dutta

KOLKATA, May 27

THE Mulajore Power Station of CESC Ltd, the flagship company of the RPG Goenka Group, is going to be shut down by December 2003, sources said. The process would begin after the Pujas in October.

This would make redundant nearly 500 people now working at this power plant, the sources told Business Line, adding that talks were on with the unions regarding this aspect. "However, the possibility of redeploying them in any of CESC's four other plants or in their distribution network was remote. This was more so in view of the West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission, which had said during its rulings that these stations was overstaffed."

The WBERC had said the New Cossipore and the Mulajore plants sent out only 10 per cent of CESC's generation but accounted for 59 per cent of the company's workforce.

The Mulajore power station, which was inaugurated by the then Bengal Governor Sir John Arthur Herbert in January 1940, is one of the oldest plants in the system of CESC — a company which brought thermal power to India over 100 years ago. Acting as a licensee of the West Bengal State Electricity Board (WBSEB), it now serves over 17 million people living in CESC's licence area, covering 567 sq. km in Kolkata and its vicinity.

While the decision to close the Mulajore plant was taken in principle some time ago, it is for the first time that a timeframe has been set to it, the sources said. The plant, with a derated capacity of 60 MW, has a plant load factor of only about 14 per cent and hardly generates more than 25 MW daily. With a high auxiliary consumption (the energy required to generate power), it can just feed about 18 MW to the system.

This CESC plant, along with the 50-year-old New Cossipore plant, has been identified by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board as two of the main culprits behind the high level of air pollution (through suspended particulate matter) in the city. While this plant is located in north Kolkata, Mulajore is located at Shyamnagar, 30 km from downtown Kolkata.

Pointing out that though the prime reason behind the shutdown of the plant was pollution control, the sources said this was by no means the only one. "From an economic point of view as well as the unreliability of the old plant, which suffered frequent breakdowns, running was not a feasible proposition any more," they said.

CESC, which has a capacity of 1,065 MW, will not really miss this plant sorely, although it might have to be step up its power import from WBSEB if the system so demands. The private sector utility, which has contract demand for 450 MW from WBSEB, actually takes about 300 MW during evening peak hours now. The city system demands about 1,200 MW during evening hours.

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