KSEB to withdraw power cuts in 24 hours, will be reinstated if coal crisis lasts beyond Oct

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Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) has decided to go for costly real-time power purchases, commission new short term hydel projects and operationalise other non-coal stations that are now kept idle to tide over the growing national power crisis that has been caused mostly by the shortage of coal.

KSEB Chairman and Managing Director B Ashok said on Friday that the brief 15-minute power cuts that were announced on April 28 would be withdrawn in 24 hours.

The CMD said according to projections a major supply crisis could happen on May 3, when he said Kerala could face a shortage of 400 MW. He said there would be no power controls but exhorted both domestic and industrial consumers to voluntarily control consumption during the peak hours between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.

As it stands, the national coal crisis has not affected Kerala the way it has Delhi or Tamil Nadu. Nineteen of the 27 central generating stations that Kerala depends on for cheap power run on coal.

Of these, only three coal-based stations have been affected: Jhabua Power Plant in Madhya Pradesh, Meija Thermal Station in West Bengal and NTPL, again in West Bengal.

"However, NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation) officials have told me that the coal crisis could extend till November, and we have been asked to take precautions," Ashok said, hinting that the situation could worsen. "A deficit of 400 MW is manageable but if this swells to 1000 MW a day, it will be hard to manage without restrictions," the CMD said.

So the distress strategy is to purchase power at a high cost of even Rs 20 per unit from the real-time market. "We have relaxed the ceiling of Rs 12 the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) has fixed for the short term day ahead market to see us through this peak shortage," Ashok said.

The plan is to secure at least 250 MW from such short term costly purchases till May 31. This will mean an additional cost of Rs 1-1.5 crore a day, or up to Rs 50 crore a month. He said this high-cost purchase was mainly to do away with the power restrictions in force now.

KSEB has also ordered light diesel oil (LDO) fuel necessary for a week from Kozhikode Diesel Power Plant (KDPP), at a cost of Rs 4.5 crore. The KDPP fuel costs Rs 11 per unit.

The coal crisis had also upset KSEB's short term purchases and swap arrangements. "Many swap arrangements did not materialise. Last March, there was not even a good offer. Even when an agreement was struck, the producer could not honour its commitment owing to shortage of coal," KSEB's finance director V R Hari said.

Coal shortage alone is not behind the supply crisis. Tata's Power's subsidiary Maithon Power announced a shutdown the other day causing a sudden shortfall of 189 MW in Kerala. KSEB's own hydel generators in Moozhiyar and Lower Periyar were also shut down for maintenance. This has caused a shortfall of another 120 MW.

The Power shortage at the national level has also forced industrial consumers who seek power from private producers, or open access consumers, to seek KSEB power. This has spiked demand by 2.44 million units a day.

As a long term measure, if the coal crisis extends beyond October, the KSEB has put the 350-MW Kayamkulam NTPC Naphtha-Based Plant on alert. "Being a combined cycle plant, the NTPC Kayamkulam will take a minimum of 30 days to get operational. Further, it has to import naphtha from Madhya Pradesh. We have asked NTPC to import naphtha," Ashok said.

Further, there are also plans to generate an additional hydel power of 118 MW by August this year by commissioning new hydel projects. The first stage of the 70-MW Thottiyar Hydel Project has got environmental clearance. The generation is expected to begin in three months. The Centre has also sanctioned the import of three generators for the 24-MW BhoothathanKettu power project. The 70-MW Peringalkuthu Hydel Project will also start generation by around August.

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