Will tapping renewable energy solve Tamil Nadu’s power problems ?

By Vipal Durge


Power shortage haunts Tamil Nadu again

Photo Courtesy: http://www.wikimedia.org

Chennai: The renewable energy market in India offers opportunities worth $ 10.51 billion as per the energy target set by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). According to Renewable energy status report of 2014, India achieved production capacity of 32,269 MW, which is 12.95 per cent of the total potential available in the country.

MNRE had set an target of achieving 41,400 MW by 2017. India has a vast potential for development of renewable energy and moreover the rapidly growing demand for energy and inability of the conventional sources to meet the demand has led to this scenario of power cuts in spite of the annual addition to energy production every year. “India needs to tap the available potential to meet the current demand for energy”, said Naveen Singh, Business development head at the Indian Electron Exchange, an online Power market analytics solution company.

In renewable energy Tamil Nadu has good track record with a contribution of around 7349 MW wind energy, which is 36 percent of the country’s total wind installed capacity. The state’s total energy production is 21192 MW of which renewable energy accounts for 39.12 percent which is far above the country’s average of 12 percent, as per the statistics provided by Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA).

U.S. President Barack Obama during his recent Republic day visit, had pledged $4 billion in investments and loans of which will be used for renewable energy projects in India. Even the Indian conglomerate Mahindra Group had declared that it would invest $732.5 million for solar power projects over the next few years.

These developments along with the country’s campaign for ‘Make in India’ promise a strong growth trajectory for the energy sector in India. But despite this increase in production capacity, transmission and distribution losses are of major concern for the power sector, said Naveen Singh. The T&D losses in the country are around 25 percent according to the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) estimates.

In T&D losses, transmission losses hardly account for up to 3%, whereas the major hit is taken at the distribution level due to overloading, loose contact, bill defaulters, theft and so on, said Madhukar Wankar , Asst. engineer (retired) with the electricity board in Maharashtra.

In Tamil Nadu too this has been a major concern for past decade. The Confederation of Indian Industries director Sreedharan Periasamy said that  T&D losses have been to the tune of over 30 percent in certain years. Cross subsidisation and providing free electricity as election sops to the low tension consumers has resulted in huge losses for the Tamil Nadu Electricity board (TNEB).

According to the data provided by Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (TANGEDCO), it purchased 2,950 million units at the rate of Rs. 12.50 per unit to furnish the demand. But the state electricity board charges the lowest rates in the country to low tension and agricultural consumers at around 3.19 per unit.

The growth for the renewable energy sector would certainly help the state meet the energy demand, Sreedharan added. But the state also needs to revise its tariff in order to be cost effective and overcome the huge losses incurred by TNEB in the past.

Tamil Nadu also had a power shortage of 6690 million units for 2014-15, which is 6.8 per cent deficit as per the Load Generation Balance report. To fill this demand and supply gap, the state had imposed notified restrictions/ energy cuts of 20% and 90% cut on base demand and energy consumption in respect of high tension industrial and commercial  consumers during the day time and evening peak hours respectively.

“The state government has announced lifting of all restrictions on power supply pinning its hope on long-term power purchase of 3,330 MW in addition to capacity addition through new generation  projects”, Deccan Chronicle reported in may 2014. But there was also load shedding of up to 2081 MW, a report published by CEA-June 2014 said.

The shortage of fuel supply by the coal authority of India is also one of the reasons for India’s shift towards renewable energy said Naveen singh and Tamil Nadu would certainly benefit from this growth in the renewable energy sector, he added.

There has been an addition of 2500 MW energy over the last three years in Tamil Nadu according to the data furnished by TEDA but still the deficit is quite high but TNEB officials declined to comment.


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