The country’s southern region is facing a severe power crisis, with transmission constraints bottling up power flows to the region from the rest of the country, despite the synchronous interconnection of the southern grid with the rest of the National Power Grid in January this year.
While the country’s overall peaking shortage — defined as shortfall in generation capacity during the time when the electricity consumption is at the maximum — has come down, the shortage in the south is increasing and is headed for the worst situation in five years.
In FY15, the peaking shortage of the south will be 9,254 MW against all India shortage of 3,027 MW (which is lower due to a surplus in the western region), according to the Load Generation Balance Report for 2014-15 released by Central Electricity Authority (CEA).
The extent of the peaking shortages in the south offer an indication of the precarious power situation for a region that is a key industrial and manufacturing hub and where consumers, by and large, can pay higher tariffs for power.
Experts feel that even the 9,254 MW could be an underestimate and the chronic shortage have badly stymied industrial growth in the region over the last couple of years.
Power flows to the deficit south have been restricted to 3,500-4,000 MW for the last five years due to transmission constraints, which have built up as a result of delays in over a dozen key transmission lines that were to facilitate flow of power to the southern region, in addition to the crucial Raichur–Solapur 765kV single circuit line that was commissioned on December 31, 2013.
The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had written to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh late last year for ensuring the removal of transmission constraints to enable higher power imports to her state.
With no action taken, the chief minister is learnt to have now written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for expediting a crucial 6,000MW HVDC line from Raigarh, Chhattisgarh to Pugalur, Tamil Nadu, a line that has been under discussion between the CEA and state-owned transmission utility Power Grid Corporation (PGCIL) for the last one year but where action on the ground is yet to be initiated.
The lines delayed include the Raichur– Solapur 765kV second circuit line, a crucial buffer for transferring additional power to the southern region.
Added to this, are delays in associated lines and substation infrastructure that are under construction for sending additional power to south, including those from the western region: the Raipur–Wardha 765 kV double circuit (D/C) line, Wardha–Aurangabad 765 kV D/C line, Solapur-Pune 765 kV (single circuit) S/C line and the Pune and Aurangabad 765kV sub stations.
In the southern region, those facing delays include Gooty–Madhugiri 400 kV D/C line, Madhugiri–Yelhanka 400 kV D/C line, Raichur–Kurnool 765 kV S/C line, Kurnool–Thiruvalam 765 kV D/C line, Thiruvalam 765/400 kV substation, Vijayawada–Nellore 400 kV D/C line, Thiruvalam–Sholinganallur 400kV D/C line.
There are delays in additional planned lines, including the 765 kV D/C Wardha–Hyderabad (via Nizamabad) line that was planned nearly three years ago. The clearance for the 350 km line is pending with the power ministry that has to approve it under Section 68 of the Electricity Act (right of way for overhead lines).
The 765 kV D/C Warora–Warangal line spanning 260km is yet to be approved by a planning committee while the 6,000 MW HVDC line between Raigarh and Pugalur (the one that Jayalalithaa has asked for being expedited) is stuck in the planning stage for the last one year.
The worst affected among industrial consumers in the region are the small and medium sized unit owners, most of whom are left with no option but to either run captive units fuelled by expensive diesel or simply down the shutters.
Tamil Nadu houses auto majors such as Ford, Hyundai, BMW, Renault-Nissan and Daimler Commercial Vehicles. The auto hub adjoining Chennai currently accounts for around 40 per cent of the country’s car production and about 60 per cent of automobile exports.
While the bigger players have arranged for back-up, the smaller ancillary units are badly hit. These include Tamil Nadu’s 7.6 lakh registered micro and small entrepreneurs, along with the 5.3 million people they employ.
In Andhra Pradesh too, the shortage is debilitating, and with the government restricting the load shedding for domestic consumers, the industry bears the brunt of the shortages. A 12-day a month power holiday for industrial consumers has been in place for a while and unscheduled cuts even beyond that.