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Karnataka aims to become power surplus in five years

By Fakir Balaji, IANS,

Bangalore : Energy-starved Karnataka, a hub for software, biotechnology and other sunrise industries, has set an ambitious target of becoming a power-surplus state in the next five years with the addition of about 6,000 MW generation capacity.

“With demand exceeding supply, we have been facing a crunch in meeting the growing requirement for power across the state from utilities and end-users,” Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd. (KPCL) managing director S.M. Jaamdar told IANS.

To overcome the shortage and export surplus power to other states through the national grid, state-run KPCL is expanding the installed capacity to 13,000 MW by 2013 from 5,700 MW at present through various sources of energy.

KPCL is scouting for partners to set up a 2,100-MW gas-based thermal power plant at Tadadi in the coastal district of Uttara Kannada, about 550 km from here.

About 60 percent of the state’s current energy generation is from hydel sources, 30 percent from thermal (coal) and the other 10 percent from wind, solar and atomic power plants at Kaiga in Uttara Kannada district. Captive units and independent private producers chip in to meet the shortage.

“A global tender for gas supply drew a good response, with 16 national and international firms showing interest in setting up a dedicated LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminal for the Tadadi project,” Jaamdar told IANS.

The mega project is estimated to cost about Rs.7,000 crore (Rs.70 billion / $1.4 billion).

KPCL is in the process of acquiring 1,600 acres of land and seeking clearance from the central environment ministry for the project, as locals earlier opposed a coal-based power plant in the coastal area, which forms a vital part of the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats.

As Tadadi is located on the sea shore, the company plans to lay an eight-kilometre pipeline for transporting the gas from ship-tankers to the terminal that will feed three units of 700 MW each.

To overcome energy deficiency, which is 10-15 percent during the peak season, KPCL has also teamed up with the state-run National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to set up a 4,000-MW thermal plant at Kudigi in Bijapur district of north Karnataka.

Of the 4,000 MW, to be generated by five units of 800 MW each, the state will get 3,000 MW and the balance will be sold to the national grid by NTPC.

“We are working out the project cost. The average cost from thermal source is Rs.3 crore per megawatt,” Jaamdar said.

KPCL is also setting up a 1,200- thermal power plant in Chhattisgarh at an estimated cost of Rs.6,000 crore, with coal from the state-run South Eastern Coalfields, which has mines in the northern region of Chhattisgarh. The project is expected to be completed by mid-2013.

The company has decided to set up two thermal plants of 660 MW each at Edlapur in Raichur district and Yermarus in Bellary district — both in northern Karnataka — with the state-run Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL). An additional 660 MW unit will be set up at Yermarus subsequently.

“Some of these projects may take longer than four-five years to be fully commissioned, as they are not only capital-intensive but also take time to comply with a host of statutory and regulatory norms pertaining to environment, land usage and linkages such as water, land, labour, raw material, equipment and finances,” Jaamdar cautioned.

This year’s belated south-west monsoon with copious rains in the last two months bailed out the state from the severe power crunch it had been experiencing due to depleted water levels in catchment areas and reservoirs.

“With dams and reservoirs filling up, we are generating more energy from hydel power units to reduce dependence on thermal plants at Raichur and Bellary. We are also able to lower the cost of generation, as hydel is much cheaper than any other source,” KPCL technical director Muralidhar Rao said.

The 40-year-old KPCL posted a net profit of Rs.277 crore on a turnover of Rs.4,148 crore in fiscal 2008-09.

“As against 2,000 MW in 20 years, we added 750 MW in 2008-09 and are adding 500 MW this fiscal (2009-10),” Jaamdar added.

(Fakir Balaji can be contacted at [email protected])