Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: Power managers of the State are exploring various options to tide over power shortage.

Establishment of cogeneration plants in the cooperative and public sugar mills for power production and utilisation of two coal blocks in Chhattisgarh and Orissa are among the options being pursued by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB).

As a sequel to the State government’s decision to set up cogeneration plants in 15 cooperative and two public sugar mills, the Board is studying a detailed project report, which also envisages modernisation of the mills. Of Rs. 1,500 crore required, Rs.1,200 crore will be used for setting up bagasse-based plants with a total capacity of 230 megawatt and Rs. 300 crore for modernisation. The entire project is expected to take at least two years for execution, says an official.

The other option the TNEB is working seriously is to find ways of developing the coal blocks allotted to it. A coal block at Gare Pelma, Chhattisgarh, is assigned to the TNEB and the Maharashtra State Mining Corporation (MSMC). On a conservative estimate, 1,000 MW can be generated from the coal block. The TNEB has proposed to the MSMC the formation of a special purpose vehicle for developing the block and generating power.

Another block allotted to the TNEB is Mandakini in Orissa. Assam, Meghalaya and Orissa will also have stakes in the block. Tamil Nadu will shortly discuss measures with the other States to utilise the block, which is also capable of providing the fuel for 1,000 MW.

As for other options to improve the supply, the government is taking a re-look at the policy framework for merchant power plants (MPP). In 2007, the government issued letters of facilitation to 10 promoters of the MPP projects. After some promoters moved the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC), challenging the directions of the government in respect of their projects, the Commission held the stipulations ultra vires of the Electricity Act. Subsequently, the government decided to dispense with the practice of issuing letters of facilitation. It would suffice for promoters to approach the government or the TNEB for power evacuation from their plants.

A government official says the administration will come out with a revised policy. The State Cabinet will discuss the issue and clear the new policy. Of the 10 projects that have been proposed under the MPP route so far, a few are likely to come off.

In the short run, the authorities are banking on the commissioning of the Kundankulam atomic power project. State government officials say that once two units at Kundankulam start power generation, the problem will ease.