With the Western Ghats in the spotlight following the WGEEP report and the recent heritage site tag of the UNESCO, the state’s power sector is in an apprehensive mood.
State-run power utility Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) has quite a large number of hydel projects planned in the region, many of which are set to be commissioned well after 2020.
The KSEB has lined up dozens of medium and small hydro-electric projects, of which many are expected to be completed only by the end of the 13th Five-Year Plan in 2022. By then, the daily demand in the state would have touched 6,093 MW, according to the 18th power survey. Currently, the demand hovers around the 3,000-3,300 MW mark. During the 12th Plan alone, the KSEB expects to add 364.05 MW through hydel projects. Kerala had already conveyed its reservations about the Prof Madhav Gadgil’s Western Ghats Ecology Expert’s Panel (WGEEP) report, and Electricity Minister Aryadan Mohammed said the state would find itself in a fix if a middle path was not found between development and preservation of ecology.
“It’s not just electricity, Kerala will find itself short of drinking water if the report is implemented per se. I’ve discussed the issue with the Chief Minister and the government will study all aspects of the impact on Kerala,” he said.
Over the years, the hydel power-thermal power ratio has shot up in favour of the latter from a mere 99:1 in 1981-1982 to 65:35 in 2011-2012.
According to the KSEB officials, the power purchases account for nearly 60 per cent of the power utility’s revenue requirement.
But how far Kerala can sideline hydel power remains to be seen. Alternatives such as solar/wind power still remain untapped and coupled with it are the soaring nation-wide demand for electricity and acute shortage of coal.
In fact, the KSEB has listed 51 hydel projects - majority of them Small Hydro-Electric Projects (SHEP) - for development up to 2021-2022. Of this, 14 are listed as ‘ongoing’ under 12th Plan projects. The biggies in this list include the 60 MW Pallivasal Extension Scheme which is expected to go online by 2013-2014, and the 40 MW Thottiyar project, which will be commissioned in 2014-2015. The total installed capacity of the 14 projects is 179.85 MW and will generate 547.39 million units (MU) annually.
Likewise, the 40 MW Mankulam and the 30 MW Thottiyar-II are expected to be commissioned by 2016-17, and 14 other small hydel projects between 2014 and 2017.
Among the 19 projects expected to be kicked off in the current plan period and completed by 2021-2022, the KSEB has even listed the 163 MW, controversy-ridden Athirappally project.