Kerala shows the way in electricity supply management


 A recent media report indicates that the state has proposed many initiatives to meet the additional electricity demand without building conventional power stations.

Kerala is one of the very few states that has not faced crises in electricity supply in the recent past.  It has not added to its predominantly hydel power capacity in recent years .
But the new initiatives, which are aimed at energy efficiency, demand side management and energy conservation, when viewed objectively indicate that they will certainly go a long way in ushering a healthy society; protecting the legitimate interests of the weaker sections and protecting the flora, fauna and environment of Kerala.

As a first step, pre-paid power meters would be installed in all government offices and pump houses of the Kerala water authority with a view to bringing down consumption by 20 per cent during the current fiscal. The state hopes to save 500 mw during the course of this year through various energy conservation measures. Of this, 250 mw would be saved by replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs and the remaining through greater energy efficiency.

Families with measurable reduction in use of power would be given energy credit. There is also a proposal to insist on payment of actual cost of supply by those consuming more than 300 units a month and double the normal charges for excess consumption during peak hours. A hike in the taxes on energy-guzzling equipment would be considered, while reducing the same applicable to energy-efficient equipment. These are expected to bring down power consumption by 10 per cent. Local bodies would be directed to focus on achieving greater efficiency in street lighting while avoiding wastage of electricity in the form of decorative lighting. Stiff tax may be imposed on hoardings that use excess quantities of power. The government would also consider providing 5 per cent subsidy to industries that facilitate greater energy efficiency. Kerala has already brought down its transmission & distribution losses to about 20 per cent. Additionally, the decision to set up an energy management company, to which would be assigned the funds saved through energy conservation measures, will be crucial in long term management of electricity sector.

The decision to meet most of the additional demand for electricity in Kerala by optimising the usage of available electricity is unique in the country, and one hopes that this trend-setting example will be emulated by all other states. It is heartening to note that the state government has a good understanding of the huge potential available through efficiency improvement and conservation measures within the existing infrastructure network. 

These initiatives should serve as a lesson to Karnataka to come out of its chronic power crises. In addition to these measures, a conscious resort to renewable sources such as solar, wind and bio-mass will virtually eliminate the need for additional conventional power projects such as dam-based hydel or coal-based power projects.

Elimination of the need for additional conventional power projects will have huge positive impact on the socio-economic aspects as well as the fast degrading environment. Unpopular issues such as people's displacement, submergence of thick forests/ agricultural lands and environmental degradation have been the sources of social upheaval in the state for a number of years, and hence addressing the same effectively will lead to all-round prosperity of the state due to reduced tensions in the society.

Additional measures such as transferring most of the street lights and commercial lighting loads to solar photovoltaic panels; encouraging feed-in-tariff solar PV panels on the roof of large establishments such as schools, colleges, offices, industries etc. can all provide huge amount of additional power capacity. Sustained energy conservation campaigns involving student community, NGOs etc. can reduce the actual demand. 

Karnataka’s penchant for large industries, which require a lot of our resources such as land, water, electricity etc., along with ever escalating electricity usage in non-essential applications has not only made it impossible to overcome the crises, but also creating a scenario where a large number of conventional power stations such as coal power plants are made to appear essential.

In the background of all these glaring issues, it would tantamount to letting down the public if the state continues to spend thousands of crores of rupees of the state's revenue and precious natural resources in establishing  additional conventional power plants without harnessing all the techno-economically viable and environmentally benign alternatives first.

(The writer is an energy expert)

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