PALAKKAD: The power situation in Kerala is not without its share of woes given the effect of cyclone Tauktae, back to back floods, arrears by defaulters including government institutions, servicing of loans availed from various institutions and the implementation of power reforms.
With the Kerala State Electricity Board continuing to reel under losses, the new Electricity Minister K Krishnankutty has his task cut out to shore up the board’s finances. In an interview to TNIE, he says purchasing power from other states is draining the board’s resources. Excerpts.
KSEB’s losses in 2019-20 was Rs 355 crore. With employees’ wage revision due, the financial situation could worsen. What’s the way out?
I would definitely like to improve the finances of the board and bring it to break even, at least. The drain in resources is felt when power is purchased from other states. These states charge a high tariff of, up to Rs 15 per unit at times, during the peak period and indulge in bargaining.
Given that large hydel projects face stiff resistance from environmentalists, what are the options before you to address the need to produce more power within the state?
We would like to take up small hydel projects as power can be produced at 50 paise per unit. Also, there are plans to tap non-conventional energy sources. There is huge potential for wind and solar energy. Under the PM-KUSUM (Pradhan Manthri Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Uthaan Mahabhiyan) implemented by Anert, farmers are eligible for 30% subsidy to set up grid-connected solar power plants. The power produced can be sold to KSEB. Or farmers can lease land to KSEB on a right-to-use agreement for a rent based on the units of power generated. It will help empower farmers and provide them a steady income.
What other measures are being considered to improve the board’s bottom line?
The IIM Kozhikode has submitted a report on how to modernise KSEB by cutting down on the flab. The government will consider implementing at least the provisions on which it could take the labour unions into confidence. The use of technology can also help in the endeavour.
Is there any move to divide KSEB into three companies — production, distribution and transmission?
We will retain KSEB as a single entity. Those discussions in the past were part of the implementation of the Centre’s Electricity Supply Act, 2003.
Are there any plans to revive large hydel schemes like Athirapally and Pathrakadavu?
As of now, there are no plans. But Kerala purchases power from thermal plants and one can imagine its impact on ecology. Our priority is to complete current projects — Bhoothathankettu (24mw), Thottiyar (40mw), Pallivasal extension (60mw), Poringalkuthu (24mw), Chathankode (6mw), Upper Kallaar (2mw), Peruvannamuzhi (6mw) and Pazhassi Nagar (7.5mw). The renovation of the Idukki, Sholayar and Kuttiyadi projects are also progressing.
What’s your road map to attract industries to the state as power is one of the main concerns?
Our neighbouring states have enough land to attract industries. The unemployment situation here can be solved only by setting up industries. Since we do not have land, we should at least be able to offer cheap power. Tamil Nadu has tapped wind energy in a big way and we should emulate it.
What’s your vision to light up the common man’s life?
Even now, there are many families in the state yet to apply for power connections. The tribal people, those living on poramboke land and those who have not received house numbers are some of them. A scheme will be devised to brighten their lives.