14 December, 2013
CHENNAI: It is possible for Tamil Nadu to overcome the current electricity crisis in the near term without relying on controversial large centralised projects, said experts who addressed students at a seminar organised by Loyola Enviro Club, the Indian Institute of Public Policy and the Chennai Solidarity Group. The seminar titled “Coal-free, Nuclear Free: Tamil Nadu’s Electricity Future Beyond 2050” emphasised that efficiency improvements, through reduction of losses during production, distirbution and consumption, combined with rationalised and equitable electricity usage and renewable energy technologies can easily overcome the existing crisis and provide for the state’s future needs as well.
Kalpana Dulipsingh, consultant with World Resources Institute’s Tamilnadu Electricity Governance Initiative, spoke on the status and challenges of Tamil Nadu’s electricity sector. Shankar Sharma, an electricity policy consultant who has worked with Central Electricity Authority, talked about how more electricity can be made available just by improving production, distribution and consumption efficiciencies. Toine van Megen of Auroville Consulting spoke via Skype on the opportunities for Tamil Nadu in distributed generation through grid-connected rooftop solar PV systems and solar villages connected to bidirectional (import export) rural grid feeders.
As the ongoing protests in Koodankulam and around the Cheyyur 4000 MW coal-fired power plant have shown, large-scale, centralised thermal plants are unpopular and can be set up only by suppressing democracy. Tamil Nadu is banking on at least some of the 17 coastal coal-fired power projects taking off in the near future. However, this seems unlikely as such projects are beset with cost and time overruns. Each of the 17 projects are mired in local opposition, legal hassles and investment problems, and there is yet no evidence that TamiL Nadu has gained any electricity from the Koodankulam plant.
Efficiency improvements and renewable technologies are not controversial, and often far quicker to deploy and cheaper than large centralised projects.
The current initiative is aimed at developing a roadmap for Tamil Nadu Government to use to address its near-term and long-term electricity needs. The organisers said that the roadmap is part of a larger campaign where the campaigners’ energies will be spent on pushing for the right solutions rather than merely fighting against the problems like coal and nuclear plants.
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Indian Institute for Public Policy, Chennai
Chennai Solidarity Group, Chennai