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Industry News

Enron, Maharashtra Keep on Arguing

LCG, Sept. 11, 2001--Enron Corp.'s Dabhol Power Co. in India wants to get paid for power it has produced for the Maharashtra State Electricity Board.

The MSEB doesn't want to pay Dabhol because, it argues, the price is too high.

The price is too high, Dabhol responds, because the MSEB doesn't buy enough power.

You didn't produce enough power when we wanted it, counters the MSEB, so we are slapping a big fine on you. Deduct what we owe from the fine.

Let's see what an international panel of arbitration has to say about this, Enron says.

Not until after the matter has been decided by our new regulatory commission which we just set up, the MSEB replies.

Just give me my money back and let me go home, Enron finally says.

Yesterday, Dabhol said the MSEB was being "illogical" in claiming the company's high power prices caused heavy losses to the state-owned utility. The company agreed that its prices might be higher than the MSEB liked, but it said that was MSEB's fault.

MSEB Chairman Vinay Bansal said Dabhol's power made the utility lose 13.4 billion rupees last year, which is almost $300 million in U.S. money. He claimed Dabhol's price of 8 rupees per kilowatt-hour was more than three times the cost of power from other sources.

Dabhol said its average tariff between May 1999 and May 2001 was 5.64 rupees while the "plant load factor" was 52 percent. Had the PLF been 90 percent, DPC's tariff would then have been only 4.13 rupees, the company said. The MSEB is Dabhol's only customer, despite a power shortage elsewhere in Maharashtra and surrounding Indian states.

"The MSEB chairman is also a member of DPC's board," Dabhol noted, "and is very well aware of DPC's tariff,"

In a statement, Enron said that is was "clear the MSEB is well in a position to draw power at 90 percent PLF...thus resulting in a most competitive current tariff of 4.40 rupees per kilowatt-hour."

That wouldn't have made a difference, Bansai said. "(The loss) would be marginally lower, but not very much. You see we bought at eight rupees a unit. Supposing even if it was five rupees a unit, instead of 13-billion loss, it would be a 10 billion," he said.

What neither side said -- at least yesterday -- was that about one-third of the power purchased by the MSEB simply disappears, without anyone paying for it, and another third is sold at artificially low rates in order to subsidize agricultural customers.

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