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Power-strapped southern states fight for slice of Kudankulam pie

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SummaryAP was not in favour of taking power when the construction of nuclear plant began in 2002.

With the 1,000 MWe (mega watt electrical) first unit of the Kudankulam nuclear project scheduled to be commissioned next month, a slugfest has erupted among the power-starved southern states to ensure that new claimants are kept out and their share of electricity from the atomic project is hiked.

Andhra Pradesh, which curiously turned down its allocation of 530 MWe of power from the upcoming 2,000 MWe station (two units of 1,000 MWe) when the share of the generated electricity was initially firmed up nearly a decade ago, has now stepped up its demand for access to the Centre’s 300 MWe “unallocated” quota (see chart).

But Tamil Nadu, the host state and biggest beneficiary, is lobbying hard to completely exclude Andhra Pradesh from the “unallocated quota”, having already manage to extricate an additional 100 MWe under this head for having supported the Centre in quelling the local agitations. Tamil Nadu has also renewed its demand that Kerala should not get any share of electricity from the project, stating that the latter is principally opposed to nuclear power.

Meanwhile, Karnataka has petitioned the Centre, saying it is a bigger state and should get its “fair” entitlement from the project, pointing to the lion’s share going to Tamil Nadu.

“Andhra Pradesh was not in favour of taking power when the construction of the nuclear power plant began in 2002-03. The state was tentatively allocated 530 MWe power from the project but APTRANSCO (Andhra Pradesh’s state-owned power utility) expressed unwillingness, and thus the power was re-distributed among other states,” said a government official involved in the exercise.

In the early part of the last decade, Andhra Pradesh was betting heavily on setting up gas-based capacity, most of which is now struggling for want of fuel.

According to an order issued by the union power ministry in 2007, Andhra Pradesh is the only southern state excluded from the allocations. Now that the plant is about to be commissioned, it has suddenly sought a share. “Based on the request of Andhra Pradesh, 100 MWe of power from NTPC’s thermal stations of the eastern region was allocated to the state in July 2012. Andhra Pradesh’s request for electricity from Kudankulam is still under negotiation but Tamil Nadu has vehemently opposed it,” said the official.

The scramble for maximising allocations from Kudankulam comes at a time when southern states are struggling to tide over debilitating electricity shortages. The lack of adequate grid interconnection between the southern region and the rest of the country has compounded the problem. Central Electricity Authority (CEA) estimates for April suggest the energy deficit (the difference between demand and supply of electricity) for the southern region was 18.1 per cent compared to a national average of 8.3 per cent. In Andhra Pradesh, the deficit was a high 20.5 per cent, in Karnataka 17.8 per cent, Tamil Nadu 19.4 per cent and in Kerala it was 3.2 per cent during the month.

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