These days when daily electricity usage in the State is apt to touch 100 million units (mu), it would be hard to believe that only a few decades ago, consumption levels stood well below the 20 mu mark.
Electricity consumption rates have been in the news after it touched 100 mu on two consecutive days – April 13 (100.30 mu) and April 14 (100.08 mu) – a first for Kerala.
State Assembly records show that 35 years ago, the State needed 18 mu for guaranteeing ‘‘uninterrupted supply.’‘ Ironically, those were also times when Kerala was battling power shortages, forcing the government to impose loadshedding so that consumption could be reduced by 3 mu!
Assembly records dating back to the eighth Kerala Assembly reveal that Kerala had around 27 lakh electricity consumers in the late 1980s. In comparison, by 2023 the consumer strength of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) has grown to 1.35 crore.
‘’We need 18 mu for uninterrupted supply. Consumption has been tied down at 15 mu with a three-hour daytime loadshedding, 40% power cut for industries and by directing commercial establishments to down shutters at 8 p.m.,’‘ then Electricity Minister T. Sivadasa Menon said in reply to a question in the Assembly in April 1988. Mr. Sivadasa Menon also stressed how vital energy conservation was, asserting that it is ‘‘equivalent to energy generation.’‘
By 2012, daily consumption levels had crossed the 60 mu mark. The average consumption in June 2012 was 58.62 mu, with the monthly maximum pegged at 60.80 MU, according to a reply given by then Electricity Minister Aryadan Mohammed in the Assembly.
Records show that the annual energy demand in Kerala rose from 5,702 MU in 1984-85 to 8,682 mu in 1989-90. As per the latest budget estimates of the KSEB, the annual energy availability during 2023-24 has been estimated at 31,130.59 mu.
Driving the demand
Economic growth, consumer numbers and climate-related factors have contributed to the growth in electricity demand. ‘‘It’s not just that the number of consumers have gone up, the increase in their purchasing power is an important factor. Many households today have multiple air-conditioners, for instance,’‘ points out Dhareshan Unnithan, former director of the Energy Management Centre (EMC), Kerala.
Government documents also illustrate how the share of internally-generated electricity in the total availability has decreased over the years. ‘‘The share of KSEB’s own power in the total power availability declined from 63% in 1996-97 to 49% in 1997-98,’‘ observes the Economic Review for 1998. Today, it is down to about 30%.