Friday, June 11, 2004

Power: Tamil Nadu gets extension for unbundling its SEB

Today's The Hindu reports that Tamil Nadu sought, and received extension by an year to unbundle the generation, transmission and distribution functions performed by Tamil Nadu State Electricity Board. Quite a few states have already asked for and received this kind of extension.

Subsequent to the new government's stand on reviewing Electricity Act, 2003, extensions are being granted to all and sundry.

Electricity Act envisaged splitting transmission from generation and distribution. It allows anyone to generate power without having to obtain any license whatsoever - provided they conform to the local norms for running any industry, such as zonal norms, pollution control norms, labour rules and so on.

I went to a talk last week by AA Sadagopan, Member (Generation), Tamil Nadu Electricity Board on the changes expected at TNEB brought in by Electricity Act, 2003. This was a technical talk organized by IEEE. As such, there was not much of scope asking certain political questions.

I did ask him what the gap was between the current demand in power and the supply that TNEB is managing. To my surprise Mr. Sadagopan answered that TNEB is perfectly matching the demand and the supply and that in the last four years there has been no scheduled load shedding or power cut. He also answered that with the new projects coming up (Koodangulam in TN, and others in neighbouring state), we will be able to manage the future demand as well.

Can any of you living in Tamil Nadu accept this statement? I know for a fact that in Srirangam, where my parents live, there is a continuous 2 hour power cut happening every day. This is not something caused by a faulty line being repaired. Sadagopan pointed out that in Chennai the power availability is over 99.8%. Even this sounds unbelievable to me.

Sadagopan's talk however was useful in understanding several issues, such as the various forms and amount of power produced in the state, the central share we are getting to our grid etc. Someone in the audience (an ex-member of the TNEB) raised a point about Tamil Nadu generating about 1300 MW of Wind power whereas it should not be more than 900 MW or so (apparently a thumb rule of not more than 10% of the grid capacity should be in the form of wind power), and wanted to know if we are recklessly allowing wind power installations south of Tamil Nadu. This sounded strange to me... The whole idea, I thought, was that we are short of power and desperate for more power, and hence the Electricity Act 2003 envisages liberalising the sector, allowing more private investment and more efficiency to be brought in to the system.

I had also been to an interesting talk given by Mr. L.V.Krishnan, Retired Director of Safety at Kalpakkam Atomic Power Plant, about three weeks back. Some of the key indicators presented during that talk was:
  • In the year 2000, India's per capita energy consumption was 500 kgOE. The comparable figures for China was 900 kgOE while the world average was 1,600 kgOE. Thus India is way below in the energy average consumed. Energy consumed is a reasonable indicator for the quality of living and economic status. If India is expecting to grow, then our energy requirements will have to at least double over the next few years.
  • Of this 500 kgOE we consume per capita, 330 kgOE comes from commercial sources, while the remaining 170 kgOE comes from fuel wood, animal dung and crop residue. Of the comemrcial sources, 52% comes from Coal powered thermal plants, 34% from oil, 7.5% from Gas, 4.5% from hydro and 1.4% from nuclear power. Wind power constitutes 0.6% only.
  • At the current usage levels, our coal reserves will come for another 240 years. If the power production is increased three-fold, the reserves will last us only for another 80 years. Similarly the oil reserves we have access to will most likely come for only another 22 years. Natural gas reserves may come for only another 22 years as well.
  • World oil production is most likely to peak immediately after 2020. At that time, the cost of the oil will start shooting up rapidly, and only powerful countries in the world may have access to oil.
  • Hydro electric power - there is very little scope for massive projects in the thickly populated regions. IOf the new projects identified (of totoal capacity 150,000 MW), one third of this lies in the state of Arunachal Pradesh (that is how strategic this state is for us now!) and even to tap this and build the necessary structures, we need hydromet data from China. The mini/micro hydel projects have only a potential of about 7,000-10,000 MW.
  • The conclusion by LV Krishnan was that nuclear power is the only hope going forward for India. Despite the safety fears that people may have, Nuclear plants in India are more safe than any other industry. He said Nuclear industry is the only industry to have an International set of standards for safety.
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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for reporting on the talk given by me some time ago. I wish to point out that administratively I was part of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research and not of the Madras Atomic Power Station also located at Kalpakkam. I had however strong professional links with the latter as well.
    Earlier in the same blog, you have referred to a question by someone on the advisability of limiting wind power generation to not more than 10% of the grid capacity. Technically, this has no basis because the wind power generation is distributed over a large number of windmills, each rated for no more than a MW or so. These are also located in different locations. It is unlikely that all of them would stop generation suddenly at the same time. It is when such sudden loss of power occurs in a grid to the extent of about 10% or more of the total grid capacity that there is a likelihood of the grid collapsing, in the process of trying to meet the full load with a lower generation. This thumb rule holds for any single unit which generates 10% of the grid, irrespective of type.