Lack of efforts to implement new power projects may affect TN’s energy security
However, the lack of serious efforts to implement new power generation projects in the state is raising curious eyebrows.
CHENNAI: When the electricity demand in Tamil Nadu broke a new record on April 20 with a whopping requirement of 19,387 mega-watt, there was unease in the air. But surprisingly, there was absolutely no glitch. The power supply did not falter like in previous years, and there was no usual power cut in rural areas. The state-run Tangedco managed the show astutely.
However, the lack of serious efforts to implement new power generation projects in the state is raising curious eyebrows. Many fear it could affect energy security in the coming years as the state aims to grow faster.
The last major power generation project commissioned was in 2014 – the North Chennai stage-II thermal power plant. And two other projects have been under construction for over a decade now. These are the thermal power plants at Uppoor in Ramanathapuram and Udangudi in Thoothukudi.
S Nagalsamy, a former member of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission, points out that the delay of a decade is not acceptable. “The main reason is the delay in announcing the tenders. Tangedco is also quoting a very high cost for constructions,” he said, adding that the public utility should focus on contract management and cost reduction.
According to Tangedco, the power demand is expected to reach 24,000 MW in the next ten years. If the power generation is not increased by launching new power projects, the state may not be able to meet its demand.
“The state is currently generating only 30% of its power and the rest is being procured from private sources. This is leading to a huge loss,” said E Natarajan, state general secretary of BMS union (engineers’ wing) of Tangedco.
Electricity minister V Senthil Balaji is however optimistic. “We had planned to commission the North Chennai thermal power plant stage-III with a capacity of 800 MW in December 2022. Due to some technical error, including the water-cooling unit issue, we postponed it. Nearly 95% of the work is over. Within a couple of months, the power plant is likely to be commissioned commercially.”
He put the blame squarely on the previous AIADMK government for not initiating any power projects for the last 10 years since 2011. According to him, the DMK government has planned to set up solar parks with a combined capacity of 6,000 MW. In the first phase, a total of 4,000 acres of poramboke land in six districts have been identified and the detailed project report completed. “We are waiting for the Tangedco board’s approval. The first solar park would be set up in Tiruvarur district,” said the minister.
The minister assured that a total of 6,220 MW of power would be added to the grid in the next four years. A senior Tangedco official told TNIE that the union government is not providing any financial support for new power generation projects. The delay in setting up new projects primarily stems from the fact that the loss-making Tangedco is compelled to spend the entire money from its own pocket.
Tangedco needs to enhance renewable energy purchase
As per the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy guidelines, the revised Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) through various renewable energy sources is 43.33%, which should be achieved by 2029-30. As of now, Tangedco’s RPO stands at 22%. Minister V Senthil Balaji said they would get more green energy sources than the target. RPO is the obligation to purchase the minimum level of renewable energy out of the total consumption.
The last major power generation project commissioned in the state was in 2014 – the North Chennai stage-II thermal power plant – while two other thermal power plants at Uppoor in Ramanathapuram and Udangudi in Thoothukudi districts have been under construction for over a decade now