How the newly commissioned 141-km-long power highway in Kerala is expected to bring down transmission costs

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Published: December 2, 2019 1:14:15 PM

As far as generation is concerned, the Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd (KSEBL) is harnessing its solar and hydel resources, thereby minimising the need to make costlier short-term purchases from Central Generating Stations (CGS).

The newly commissioned 141-km-long power highway will bring down transmission costs. The newly commissioned 141-km-long power highway will bring down transmission costs.

The power scenario is looking up in Kerala. The recent commissioning of a 800-MW power highway connecting Edamon and Kochi would allow the state to import power from any part of the country, reducing transmission losses it has been suffering thus far. As far as generation is concerned, the Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd (KSEBL) is harnessing its solar and hydel resources, thereby minimising the need to make costlier short-term purchases from Central Generating Stations (CGS).

“The newly commissioned 141-km-long power highway will bring down transmission costs. With 447 transmission towers, it passes through four districts: Kollam, Pathanamtitta, Kottayam and Ernakulam,” says George Mathew, Project Manager, Edamon-Kochi power highway. With Kerala entitled to 266 MW power from the 2,000-MW Kudamkulam nuclear power station in Tamil Nadu, KSEBL had been using the Tirunelveli-Udumalpet-Madakkathara-Kochi line to transmit this electricity, suffering about 20 MW (102 MUs of power) of transmission losses per year. The power highway will eliminate such idle costs.

While the Power Grid Corp (PGCIL) had embarked on the project 13 years ago, litigation filed by landowners saw it being delayed. In March 2017, the Pinarayi Vijayan government prioritised settling of the court cases and completion of the project by September 2019. The state government jointly paid with PGCIL Rs 113-crore as compensation to the displaced landowners.

Meanwhile, the state has been pushing for solar power, having appointed the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as consultant for the purpose. And in what is a change from the trend seen elsewhere, it is taking the rooftop solar route to generate renewable energy. By June 2020, the Urja State Kerala Mission is expected to generate 200 MW of power through solar panels fitted on 42,500 rooftops. Out of this, 150 MW would be generated through the tariff-based Renewable Energy Service Company (RESCO) route. The remaining 50 MW is to be produced under the Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC) mode.

“We intend to go for the second phase of our solar power agenda as soon as Phase I is over. This would create another 300 MW of solar capacity by May 2021,” says state Power Minister MM Mani.

In the hydel sub-sector, the monsoons have come as a boon for the state, swelling KSEBL’s coffers. Compared to the average per day generation of 12 MUs of hydel power in November 2018, the figure went up to 20 MUs in November 2019.

Besides an upgrade of the state’s generation and transmission infrastructure, KSEBL’s books are in better shape than ever before. In July 2019, it effected a 11.4% tariff hike, which translates into a whopping Rs 902-crore boost for its revenues. It has now written to the state Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC) for permission to impose a “fuel-surcharge” of 13 paise per unit on consumers. Sources say despite the elbow-grease to cut its transmission losses, the ERC is unlikely to permit the utility a second tariff hike. In any case, ERC norms do not allow for a complete refund to KSEBL.

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