Click here for more...

(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII NO. 20, February 1-15, 2013
Our power crisis
Will relief plans materialise?
By Raghavan Mohan

Tamil Nadu has been facing a severe power crisis for the last few years and the situation has only been deteriorating. There are 10 to 16 hours-a-day power cuts in all the districts except Chennai where the power cut is only for two hours.

As a result, industrial performance in the region has been very badly affected. Power cut in domestic services may not be a major drawback to economic development, but the public do suffer as they have been accustomed to power usage.

It is reported that Tamil Nadu is 4000 MW short of electricity. The deficit was only 2000 MW a year ago. The State currently has a generating capacity of over 10,000 MW but even this is in doubt with many of the power plants in the State overaged and requiring revamping.

The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) is now in a precarious situation, burdened with over Rs. 50,000 crore accumulated losses since it started buying power in 2008. Tamil Nadu was a power-surplus State until 2006.

While the refurbishing process is on in many units, the State and TNEB have been very slow in creating new power capacities even though the present Government is attempting to speed up projects that have not been progressing since they were initiated. Meanwhile we are witnessing a rampant growth of the industrial and residential segments, and a consequent high demand for power.

* * *

Recently, a petition was filed with the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court seeking a direction to the TNEB not to cut power during the nights and not to resort to unscheduled loadshedding. Hearing the petition, the Court suggested that the number of lights used in Government offices be reduced during the day and urged the use of sunlight more.

The Court also said that the screens and blinds provided in various offices should be opened temporarily to allow in sunlight. It also suggested other measures that should be observed by the authorities.

The use of airconditioners should be reviewed wherever there was more than one machine and authorities should consider curbing indiscriminate use of power during festivals, marriages, public functions, political meetings etc. till the power crisis was over, the judge observed. Government officials should voluntarily take steps to reduce the consumption of power in their offices, he added and urged private and multinational companies to utilise power in a regulated manner.

The TNEB, which has now become Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Company (TANGEDCO), was also directed to approach Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission to ensure equitable distribution of power.

Government can also reduce wasteful Government office space, including the offices for MPs and MLAs. In fact, many office spaces for Government personnel, who are field-oriented only and meant to interact more with the public, are huge and unnecessary. In real terms, the offices should be where the public live and not isolated centrally.

* * *

While there are accusations that the State Government has not done enough to resolve the crisis, the current regime feels the previous Government failed to initiate action to increase power generation in the State during its tenure. It also says a proper long-term agreement was not signed with other States to buy power from them.

As a result, a proper transmission corridor is not available to carry all the power purchased. A recent incident of power purchase from Gujarat is being cited as a case in point. Of the 500 MW of power per day purchased from Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd., only 235 MW could be distributed owing to the poor transmission network between the southern and northern grids.

It is a collective failure of all machineries of the democratic system, including the general public. Those working in the electricity, town planning and other government departments, those running private units or employed in private corporates, and those donning the role of politicians have all failed to act responsibly and shied away from accountability. This is the cause for the current miserable state of electrical affairs in Tamil Nadu.

The political class is primarily responsible for the crisis and hurling brickbats at each other does not help. The bureaurcrats too cannot transfer the blame on others. They are totally responsible for the situation, as they are the only ones who stay in power for their whole life compared to politicians whose fortunes are subject to change every five years. They are appointed for the specific purpose of providing effective services to the public.

In real terms, the 80,000-odd electricity staff should have set a target of productivity for themselves and worked towards it. Even a quarter of a megawatt per staff production target would have made the State hugely power surplus by now.

* * *

For Tamil Nadu, nearly 4500 MW should be available anytime now in addition to existing capacity if some of the long-pending projects go online. Commissioning of the NTPC-TNEB joint venture for a capacity of 500 MW, two North Chennai projects with a capacity of 600 MW, and a 600 MW project in Mettur should help ease pressure on the State Government. In addition, all eyes are now on the controversial Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. If the first phase of this Central Government plant starts generation, the State will get another 460 MW from the central grid.

It is reported that if these projects, coupled with a few more in the pipeline, take off, the State can fulfil its aim of adding an additional capacity of 4,500 MW.

The State is also aiming to attract investments of Rs.4.5 lakh crore into the energy sector. Through this investment, the Government is looking at generation of 20,000 MW of thermal capacity and 10,000 MW of renewable energy. An additional Rs. 2 lakh crore of investment is being planned to enhance the transmission and distribution space as well.

* * *

The Government should treat the Capital and the other districts equally. In fact, Chennai, being well-funded and well-equipped, should use alternative energy sources which are affordable only in the city, and other places should be provided less power cut and more electricity.

The basic problem all over the State is reckless and scattered settlement of population that has created a tough situation for the power supply in the State. In future, Governments should strictly adhere to innovative and constructive policies with regard to settlements.

By this, it is meant the Governments should encourage planned cities and townships that will reduce consumption of power and fuel. This includes reducing transmission losses and pollution. To make a success of planned dwelling systems, exhaustive education of the public about the style of living and the benefits of the systems should be conducted.

* * *

Solar power generation seems to be the best alternative at the moment. While many States have adopted this energy source, Tamil Nadu lags well behind. Yet, the State is in an advantageous position with regard to solar energy, given the fact that it has clear sunny days for over 80 per cent of the year.

The Government has already announced a policy in this regard that would entail generation of 3000 MW of solar power by 2015. The policy, aiming to make solar power a people's movement, envisages 50 MW solar parks in each of 24 districts, and solar powering of street lights and water supply installations of local bodies. It also seeks to promote solar panels on rooftops in domestic and Government buildings, apart from encouraging power producers with a slew of incentives and tax benefits.

The recent news is that solid waste, human waste to be precise, has also been identified as a very useful power generation source. While this technology is in use in the State for some time now, the usage is not as widespread as desired.

Given its multiple advantages, such as cost-effective safe generation, reduction or eradication of pollution, and refined natural manure to the crops, there is a lot of scope for this technology. The administration should encourage deployment of solid waste and wastewater treatment at all levels and create awareness among corporators and public.

All this said, the fact remains that only political will and bureaucratic commitment will ease the situation. (Courtesy: Our Building and Construction)

Please click here to support the Heritage Act

In this Issue

City roads taken over
Government flip-flop
Our power crisis
The story of migrations eastwards
Vignettes of the past – in pictures... & live
The view from the Mount
On the trail of judges & lawyers
Enjoying ourselves at the Book Fair

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary
Babu's Toon


Download PDF

Back to Archives

Back to current issue...