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Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities begins thus “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Dickens might have written something similar about the energy position in Tamil Nadu were he alive today. On the one hand, the state is the undisputed number one in wind in India (the state even got many international awards for this). And the state also has ambitious plans for solar, with a reported 3000 MW target by 2015. The state in fact has more capacity installed in wind than its official potential! The best of times…

And then the inevitable bad news. Large power cuts, significant power deficits, a bankrupt SEB, over a 1000 MW of wind power not used because of lack of evacuation infrastructure…

Power cuts could make or break governments. Thankfully, the chief minister, having gotten elected only a few months back, has over four years before she starts worrying about elections. But she has to start doing something now if the state were to see results in 3 years from now. Let’s see some updates in the context of the power cuts – both the “best of” and “worst of”.

  • The state government has a tough task ahead as it has promised to lift power cuts by August 2012 but most generation projects are running behind schedule and the energy requirement of the state is expected to increase by 8% to 10% in the next financial year.
  • Though the government proposed that the state was expected to add 3,280 MW during 2011-12, the expected capacity addition is far from reality now.
  • TANGEDCO has brought down the projected capacity addition for 2011-12 from 3,280 MW to 1,943 MW.
  • TNEB had lined up projects to increase power generation by an additional 10,000 MW but there are not enough sub-stations or distribution infrastructure to carry the generated electricity. Currently there are 1350 sub stations in the state, which has to be expanded beyond 1500 in order to handle the electricity that would be generated in the upcoming thermal, nuclear and hydro power plants.
  • There is a separate drive that is developing the grid infrastructure back bone to handle the infirmness prone wind energy based electricity that is generated in the state.
  • Though TNEB has made big announcements, the fact is that TNEB is bankrupt and their financial health is deteriorating day by day with no end at sight. This is a big, big problem. Hopefully, the power tariff increases will make it a bit more healthy.