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Industry News

India's Karnataka State Wants Better Power Deals

LCG, May 22, 2001Karnataka state, the Silicon Valley of India, is pressing 11 private electric power companies to renegotiate contracts it signed for the output of power plants currently under development.

Karnataka, on India's west coast just south of Maharashtra state, apparently thinks its northern neighbor is winning its battle with Enron Corp. to get lower prices for power generated by the U.S. company's Dabhol Power Project, but Enron has indicated it will pull out of India before renegotiating its six-year-old contract with the Maharashtra State Electricity Board.

Karnataka has told the independent power producers they must make their prices more competitive and has further said that it would not guarantee payment to the companies. "We're trying to tell them your tariff has to be competitive," said V.P. Baligar, chairman and managing director of the Karnataka State Power Transmission Corp. Ltd., the state's monopoly power distributor. "You have to have the final capability so you can implement the project without any guarantee or escrow."

Karnataka signed contracts in 1996 for the output of 14 projects, three of which have already begun operation. The state will reluctantly pay the agreed-upon rates for the three operating plants but wants to renegotiate agreements for the other 11.

The state bills itself as the technology center of India and says it will need 2,500 megawatts of new generation within five years. The 11 projects would provide 2,000 megawatts of that capacity, with one plant, the Mangalore Power Co., providing 1,000 megawatts. Mangalore, once the project of U.S. power developer Cogentrix, is now owned by China Light & Power, Cogentrix having given up on the project in 1999 because of litigation and bureaucratic delays.

In addition to Cogentrix, three other U.S. firms have pulled out of Indian power projects, citing red tape, litigation and the impermanence of Indian legal instruments.

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