A very generous southwest monsoon, which has just concluded, has filled all the hydel reservoirs of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), but it will not solve the dry season power crisis in the State even this year.
The southwest monsoon this time brought for the KSEB more inflow of water into its reservoirs during the four-month period from June to September than can be expected normally during a full year.
Against a normal (20-year average) inflow worth 6,737 million units of electricity for a full ‘water-year’ (June to May), the inflow to the hydel reservoirs was equivalent to 7,121 million units of power during just the four-month period of the southwest monsoon this time.
But the overall storage capacity of the hydel reservoirs is worth only 4,140 million units of power, which means that, to avoid spillage of water from the reservoirs, the KSEB had to use up much of the excess inflow received during the southwest monsoon.
According to the storage data maintained by the KSEB, its reservoirs had 96 per cent storage (worth 3,958 million units of power) as on October 1. This is an excellent situation. Yet, since the KSEB has to create space in the reservoirs to receive further inflow that will follow during the period of the northeast monsoon from mid-October to December, the hydel generation is now being maintained at level of nearly 40 million units daily.
Beginning from January till April end is the driest period of the year for Kerala. and During last summer, the power consumption had touched 63 million units a day even with supply restrictions in place. The KSEB, in its annual plan before the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, had forecast the power consumption to shoot up to 67 million units a day during the approaching summer months. (The daily consumption now is around 57 million units.)
The highest reservoir storage with which the KSEB can enter the dry season is just around 4,000 million units, because of capacity limitations.
This means that only that much hydel reserve will be available during that period when the electricity demand touches peak levels.
The KSEB can at present access around 23 million units of moderately priced electricity daily from the Central pool and the quantum can go up to around 26 million units once the Kudankulam nuclear power plant starts giving energy to the grid.
Even if the KSEB can add 20 million units a day to daily energy requirement during the summer days, thanks to the good reservoir storage with which it may enter the summer season, it will have to depend on high-cost energy from the open market (to the tune of around 20 million units daily) to satisfy the demand in the State then.