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Physician, cure thyself

TN can do much to improve power supply

Physician, cure thyself
EVEN WHILE Tamil Nadu is reeling under severe power shortage, it appears bizarre to keep capacity idle.The Kudankulam nuclear plant should have been commissioned three years ago; the Russians delayed it. But had the state involved itself more closely with its progress, it could have saved a year. By timely decisive action the state could have reaped the benefit of generating 2000MW of power at least for a year now. We estimated the cost of delay at Rs 14.4 crore per day.

Here comes another bizarre instance: a 600 MW power station of the TN government at Mettur remaining idle for months. Reason: delay in constructing 9 transmission towers through Tirupur to evacuate the power.Recently, the Madras High Court chided the Collector of Tirupur for stalling this project. Experts from the TANGEDCO designed the route of the transmission lines through Tirupur which was accepted by the then Collector. His successor lent credence to the voice of few farmers who protested over the transmission towers erected through their lands and suggested TANGEDCO to re-route. The considerate Collector stalled the work. The High Court held that the Collector did not possess the expertise to overrule TANGEDCO and directed that the original route be taken. 

The investment of Rs 2400 crore could have been recovered through the revenue generated in less than two years!

There is an equally bizarre action on the part of Thiruvallur district Collector, ordering a deviation in the
route for setting up transmission towers to evacuate power from the 1200MW North Chennai. Thermal
Power station(Stage II). The delay in constructing a 34km transmission line is the cause for the inability to commission the power plant for over a year now. TANTRANSCO has to seek judicial remedy involving familiar delays. Justice N Paul Vasantha Kumar upheld TANTRANSCO’s appeal. Thus in less than a week the High Court has delivered two vital judgments. One wonders why the Chief Secretary, the Energy Secretary, and the state planning commission, cannot monitor on a daily basis progress of major projects so vital to the state.

In 2002, IE took the initiative to bring together the chief executives of five large power sector entities-
BHEL, L&T-ECC, Neyveli Lignite Corporation, TNEB and the Ennore Port. IE convened a meeting at
Economist House under the chairmanship of then Minister of Finance-Tamil Nadu, C Ponnaiyan. Dr M S
Swaminathan, then Deputy Chairman-TN Planning Commission participated. We mooted the idea of
creating a consortium of these five entities for constructing a 1000MW power plant at the Ennore Port.
This site was blocked by Videocon for some three years for setting up this plant which was a non-starter.The chief executives of these five institutions were impressed with the idea involving an equity of Rs 750 crore contributed by them and the balance of around Rs 2500 crore taken on loan and sharing the responsibilities among themselves. NTPC played spoil sport, offering to contribute 89 per cent along with TNEB (11 per cent) to set up the plant and torpedoed the IE plan. Subsequently NTPC and TNEB planned to set up a 1500MW(3x500MW), plant at Vallur. This idea was mooted in June 2002. Ten years later even the first unit of 500MW has not been commissioned.

Another joint venture that floated after our proposal to set up a 1000MW(2x500MW) plant at Tuticorin
jointly by NLC and TNEB, is still a non-starter. Only in our last issue we pointed to the 1200MW(2x600MW) Udangudi power plant, to be jointly set up by BHEL and TNEB, making little progress over the five years since announced in 2007 and recently suffering termination of the JV by the TN government.

The 4000MW Ultra Mega Power Plant at Cheyyar is again bogged down, initially with environment
clearances and later with land acquisition problems.

The DMK government was in power in Tamil Nadu till May 2011. It also had sizeable say in the Union
government. If only DMK supremo M Karunanidhi is as development-oriented as Narendra Modi or
Chandrababu Naidu, he could have succeeded in getting the needed environmental clearances, coal linkages, funding, etc with ease.

Even while the AIADMK government is demanding higher allocation of power from the Centre, it can do
well to look at such costly loss of power within its own domain. The government should appoint a
competent authority to monitor execution of projects and remove bottlenecks in time.
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