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Madras Musings wishes all its readers a very Happy New Year!                      (ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII NO. 17, December 16-31, 2012
The State to blame
Bottlenecks stall power supply
By S. Viswanathan

Even while Tamil Nadu is reeling under severe power shortage, it appears bizarre to keep capacity idle. The Kudankulam nuclear plant should have been commissioned three years ago: the Russians delayed it. But, had the State involved itself more closely with its progress, it could have saved a year. By timely and decisive action the State could have reaped the benefit of generating 2000 MW of power for at least a year now. We estimated the cost of delay at Rs. 14.4 crore per day!

Here's another bizarre instance: a 600 MW power generating station of the Tamil Nadu Government at Mettur has remained idle for months. Reason: delay in constructing nine transmission towers through Tirupur to evacuate the power. Recently, the Madras High Court chided the Collector of Tirupur for stalling this project. Experts from the TANGEDCO designed the route of the transmission lines through Tirupur which was accepted by the then Collector. His successor lent credence to the voice of a few farmers who protested over the transmission towers erected through their lands and suggested TANGEDCO re-routes them. The considerate Collector stalled the work. The High Court held that the Collector did not possess the expertise to overrule TANGEDCO and directed that the original route be taken.

The investment of about Rs. 2400 crore could have been recovered through the revenue generated in less than two years!

There is an equally bizarre action on the part of a Thiruvallur District Collector. He ordered a deviation in the route for setting up transmission towers to evacuate power from the 1200MW North Chennai Thermal Power Station (Stage III). The delay in constructing a 34 km transmission line is the cause behind the inability to commission the power plant for over a year now. TANTRANSCO had appealed to seek judicial remedy and that involved familiar delays. Justice N. Paul Vasantha Kumar upheld TANTRANSCO's appeal. Thus, in less than a week, the High Court delivered two vital judgments. It is cause for wonder why the Chief Secretary, the Energy Secretary, and the State Planning Commission cannot monitor on a daily basis the progress of major projects so vital to the State.

In 2002, Industrial Economist (IE) brought together the chief executives of five large power sector entities, BHEL, L&T-ECC, Neyveli Lignite Corporation, TNEB and the Ennore Port. IE convened a meeting under the chairmanship of then Tamil Nadu Minister of Finance, C. Ponnaiyan. Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, then Deputy Chairman, TN Planning Commission, participated in it. We mooted the idea of creating a consortium of these five entities to construct a 1000MW power plant at Ennore Port. The chief executives of these five institutions were impressed with the idea involving an equity of Rs. 750 crore to be contributed by them and the balance of around Rs. 2500 crore being taken on loan and sharing the responsibilities amongst themselves. NTPC, however, played spoilsport, offering to contribute 89 per cent along with TNEB (11 per cent) to set up the plant and torpedoed the IE plan. Subsequently NTPC and TNEB planned to set up a 1500 MW (3x500 MW) plant at Vallur. This idea was mooted in June 2002. Ten years later, even the first unit of 500MW has not been commissioned.

Another joint venture that was floated after IE's proposal was to set up a 1000 MW (2x500MW) plant at Tuticorin jointly by NLC and TNEB. This is still a non-starter. The 1200MW (2x600MW) Udangudi power plant, to be set up jointly by BHEL and TNEB, has made little progress over the five years since it was announced in 2007 and recently the JV was terminated by the State Government.

The 4000MW Ultra Mega Power Plant at Cheyyar got bogged down, initially with environment clearance hurdles and later with land acquisition problems.

The DMK government was in power in Tamil Nadu till May 2011. It also had a sizeable say in the Union Government. It could have succeeded in getting the needed environmental clearances, coal linkages, funding, etc. with ease, but failed to do so.

Even while the present Government is demanding higher allocation of power from the Centre, it would do well to look at what is holding up generation of power from within its own domain, and remove the bottlenecks that are preventing the smooth execution of projects already sanctioned.

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In this Issue

Confusion reigns over heritage
Chennai lags behind as a liveable city
The State to blame for power shortage
Greater focus on natural and rural heritage needed: INTACH
Safeguarding intangible heritage
The State's Legislative Assembly – 60 years and more
Animal Farm – Version 2
Driving – the Indian way...
From promoter of consumerism to consumer activist – Part II
The Mother of all Music Seasons

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write – Season Special!
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


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