Karnataka is on the threshold of becoming an electricity surplus State, having been short of power for well over three decades, largely thanks to the focus on tapping renewable sources of energy particularly the wind and solar energy. It is often said that a political party ruling at the Centre never really entertains the concerns and requests of a State which is ruled by an opposition party. In the case of Karnataka, it is a different story altogether in the matter of electricity generation and supply with the Union and the State Governments working together under the aegis of the 24x7 electricity programme .
A good understanding has been forged to ensure electricity supply to all the regions and people of the State and this is paying rich dividends. Karnataka is now among the top-ranking States in electricity generation and supply sector and in the recent summer, there was hardly any power cut for domestic consumers. It is another matter that electricity supply was shut down in many areas of Bengaluru after the onset of the southwest monsoon and it was largely due to the poor transmission and distribution (T&D) lines.
Fifty-five-year old Shivakumar took charge as the Energy Minister of Karnataka on January 1, 2014, and within five months brought forth a Solar Policy which will be effective for a seven-year period. This policy, which provides an opportunity to all consumers to participate in solar energy generation, has been widely appreciated by the Union Government which, in fact, has incorporated some features of the Karnataka Solar Policy in its policy document.
He said, “we have evolved a new strategy in long-term energy planning and this will ensure that Karnataka remains a power surplus State for over a decade, at least until 2030. In 2013, the demand was about 8500 MW, consumption was about 186 million units and the main source of power was from State-run hydel and thermal plants in addition to the independent power products using fossil fuel”.
The hydel reservoirs normally had a 50 per cent water storage and consequently the generation too was restricted to 50 per cent. There were frequent power outages in the thermal plants, due to wear and tear of equipment, mainly since their life span was over. There were problems in major independent power producers like the Udupi Power Corporation Limited and Jindal. Further “even though we had an installed capacity of 12000 MW in 2012 we could not use it to the optimum level. The turnaround came about in 2005, when we started getting power from wind farms. By 2012-13, we had 2190 MW of wind energy and 14 MW of solar generation. Thereafter came about the giant leap in tapping solar power. The cost of installing solar plants also showed a downward trend-- while the cost (till 2009) for commissioning a 1 MW solar power plant was about Rs.20 crores, it drastically reduced to Rs.5 crores in 2014 and gave a quantum boost to the sector. Presently we have 3,595 MW of wind power and 983 MW of solar power.
He said, the generation capacity now is 20,979 MWs including 7,220 MW from renewable energy sector and the State has registered a peak load of 10,242 MW and 228 MUs this year. Further, though the hydel and thermal generation is affected owing to a poor monsoon and repairs and maintenance of the thermal plants, “we have not imposed power cuts thanks to the contribution by the renewable energy sector. As against our requirement of 170 MUs in June 2017, we are getting 40 MUs from wind, 55 MUs from central grid, 20 MUs from UPCL and 20 MUs from State thermal, 10 MUs from Hydro, 3 MUs from solar and about 10 to 12 MUs from IPPs”.
The dependence on the hydel and thermal generation plants is decreasing day by day. In about two years from now the State will be commissioning about 1,000 MW solar plants in Pavagada, 20 MWs in 102 taluks and about 3,000 MW of solar power from IPPs.
The State’s share from the Central Generating Stations is presently around 2,900 MW and this is also likely to increase in a big way over the next few years. “We will be receiving an additional 1,500 MW in about two years and another 1,000 MW more in about four years—with all this the availability from the central stations will be 5,600 MW.
It should be noted that Karnataka was one of the foremost States to produce hydro-electric power (1902) and the first such generating station was located at Sivasamudram across the River Cauvery, and the electricity that was generated was largely dedicated to the power requirements of the Gold Mines at the KGF. Incidentally, the first electric bulb was switched on at the City Market in Bengaluru around the same time.
Shivakumar said, “we were the first to lay a 148-km 78 kV longest transmission line in the world and were also the first to install irrigation pumpsets at Kanakanahalli for the benefit of farmers. Mysuru was also the first to have dual frequency supply of 25 cycles and 50 cycles.
Due to rapid industrial growth in the 1950s and 1960s the demand for power increased although no new generation units were constructed for various reasons and the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 made it all the more difficult to construct hydel power plants.
According to sources in the Union Government, the country has a total installed solar capacity of nearly 10,000 MW and another 15,000 MW are in the pipeline. Karnataka ranks way better than most other States although it lags behind Tamil Nadu (1,600 MW), Rajasthan (1,300 MW) and Gujarat (1,250 MW). Ten States account for nearly 90 per cent of the solar energy produced in the country.
Andhra Pradesh has the most solar energy parks and activity in the solar sector picked up in the State with the completion of the Kurnool Solar Park. At present, Andhra Pradesh has solar projects aggregating 1,009 MW (in-operation) and 1,494 MW under development.
Telangana too has come a long way with its solar policies and programmes and these have helped the State to claim the fifth spot in the country with 1,006 MW in solar energy generation and 2,418 MW under development. Karnataka has the largest solar projects under various stages of implementation totalling nearly 3,500 MW.
Shivakumar said, “as regards to the per capita consumption of electricity, I can give some interesting figures. The smaller States like Goa with 2,004 units and Puducherry with 1,864.5 units are on the top. Karnataka stands at 1,139 kWh just above the national average of 1,010 kWh and I agree that the State has a long way to go. This requires sustained efforts in planning, execution and timely completion of projects.
The erection of a power plant – be it hydro, thermal or nuclear – has a long gestation period between planning and commissioning. Construction of a power plant is a complex process and involves obtaining the approval of the competent authorities, budgetary sanction, funding, planning, execution, commissioning and construction of associated lines and receiving stations etc. Any delay will have a time overrun and additional costs.
The T&D losses in Karnataka is a high of 15 per cent and most of these losses are due to power theft. The performance of the vigilance wings in the electricity supply companies is obviously poor and a reflection of the collusion between the offenders and the enforcement authorities.
Agreeing to the losses, the Minister said, energy received at various interface points will be taken as input reference in the transmission sector and basically the interface points will be at all 400 kV and 220 kV stations. In the distribution sector the interface points will be the 11 kV or 33 kV lines. The difference in energy recorded between 400/220 kV interface point and the 33/11 kV point are the losses in the transmission sector and this now stands at 3.253 per cent in Karnataka, which is lowest in the country. The difference between the energy recorded at 33/11 kV interface points and the total energy recorded at various low tension and high tension connections are the losses in the distribution sector. The distribution loss now provisionally stands at 14.41 per cent for 2016-17 and Aggregate Technical and Commercial losses now provisionally stands at 15.22 per cent.
To reduce the T&D Losses, Shivakumar said, “we have taken up intensive energy audit on select 11 kV feeders where the loss is more. We are providing 100 per cent metering on all household installations including the Government subsidised schemes. In villages we are removing all old electro-mechanical meters and replacing with static meter. In cities we are introducing smart/static state of art meters for accurate energy measurements.
Karnataka now has a good mix in power generation from a variety of sources particular that of green and clean energy. Added to this are the large number of co-generation plants largely of the sugar factories.
The State has constituted some dedicated organisations in the production of clean energy including the Karnataka Renewal Energy Development Limited. Several policies including a solar policy (2014-21) have also been enunciated and special emphasis under this is the opportunity given to each consumer to generate solar power and make over the surplus to the grid.
The State Government has constituted Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited as the Nodal Agency to promote Renewable Energy. The State and the Union governments have formed a special purpose vehicle --- Karnataka Solar Power Development Corporation Limited (KSPDCL) for the purpose of developing a 2000 MW solar plant at Pavagada in Tumkur district.
Shivakumar said, the Government is working at having an installed capacity of nearly 6,000 MW in solar and around 1,000 MW of wind power plants to be commissioned by 2020. About 4,000 MW installed capacity of wind power plants have already been commissioned and their generation is about 35 to 40 million units a day. Last year we have generated about 6073 MUs which is about eight per cent of total generation. We hope to generate 15 per cent to 18 per cent of the total energy from renewable sector and this will go a long way in reducing pollution.
“We have enunciated a clear-cut policy for the energy sector” and these will be implemented with defined roles for the State and the Union governments, irrespective of the party in power.
The source-wise installed capacity in MW and the generation of power in million units (MU) are as follows:
Installed capacity in MW
Generation in MU
%age Energy share
Total Thermal 75.53%
Source: Government of Karnataka