Scindia wants KSEB to approach KSERC on soaring power purchase cost

The Union Power Ministry seems to have a ‘panacea’ for the State’s grim energy crisis and soaring power purchase cost: approach the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission (KSERC) to address the grievances — the obvious solution being yet another tariff hike.

Replying to Power Minister Aryadan Mohammed’s letter on March 4 seeking an additional allocation of 200 MW from the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) stations in the eastern region, Union Minister of State for Power Jyotiraditya M. Scindia has ruled out the possibility of granting an additional share and instead wants the Kerala State Electricity Board to approach the KSERC to find a solution to its financial crisis. In effect, periodical tariff hike has been prescribed as the sole option to overcome the State’s energy crisis.

Acute energy crisis in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu has been cited as a reason for turning down Kerala’s request. Between April last and February, the State had an overall energy shortage of 4.1 per cent and a peak-time shortage of 8.8 per cent. At the same time, the peak-time shortage in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu was 19.2, 13.5, and 12.3 per cent respectively.

Allocation from Central power-generation stations to States is made as firm allocation. The firm allocation remains unchanged and can be reapportioned only in the event of surrender of power by the States or when they are unable to pay the requisite dues of Central public sector undertakings. The allocation to one or more States can be enhanced only by an equivalent reduction in the quantum to other beneficiaries. The Minister has clarified that it is impossible to override the difficulties being faced by other southern States to meet Kerala’s demand and hence recommended tariff revision as a panacea.

Official sources told The Hindu that the missive is a pointer to the grim power crisis awaiting the State in the near future. Since the KSERC has determined the tariff for another year, there is no scope for an immediate revision. But the crisis that is looming large portends a steep hike in the coming years. Neither the government nor the board has given serious thoughts to completing the ongoing projects within a specific timeframe. Discussions for exploring non-conventional power sources, mainly solar energy, have not crystallised so far. The draft solar policy that has come up for discussion has not been finalised and notified. If the government fails to step in to end the prevailing indecision, the situation would worsen soon, the sources say.