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The failure of the southwest monsoon to gather strength has once again landed Kerala, dependent largely on hydel power, in the lurch on the power front. What are the long-term options for Kerala to overcome such vagaries? Our readers respond…
Forest goes missing
Kerala is dependent mainly on hydroelectric power. Destruction of forests in the Western Ghats has considerably reduced groundwater reserve in the area, with the result that only surface runoff is collected in reservoirs. As such, the reservoirs get filled only during rainy season. A thick forest cover would have supplied groundwater to the reservoirs throughout the year. It may be recalled that Kerala was once a State without floods and droughts. With demand for power on the rise, relying on just hydroelectric power is not advisable. Other options like thermal, wind and solar power should be explored. Measures should be taken to reduce transmission loss and wastage of energy. Energy conservation must be made a habit. In many government offices and institutions lights and fans are switched on even when there is sufficient light and after employees have left the office. Building rules should be modified to ensure that natural lighting is used in buildings to the maximum possible extent.
Kerala is facing acute power shortage. Easing of the situation depends entirely on a copious monsoon. However, there is no guarantee on this front and most of the time reservoirs do not have adequate water for power generation. Thermal plants will be able to bridge the demand-supply gap to some extent. Wind turbines must be set up in places where wind is strong. Solar energy can be effectively tapped for domestic needs. Biogas plants can be of much use in places where requisite ingredients are available. N. Ramachandran
For the present power crisis, do not blame only deficit monsoon. We forget that less energy consumed is energy saved. Transmission losses must be checked. Efficiency of the system has to be optimised, right from the selection of distribution process to the equipment used. Further, effective energy management and awareness programmes for industrial and non-industrial users, along with penalty for heavy consumers can reduce power consumption. Also, Kerala needs to consider other renewable power sources.
With its tropical climate and good sunlight right through the year, solar energy is a good option. Though installation cost is high, running and maintenance cost is almost nil. Wind energy too is a good option, something which Tamil Nadu has already ventured into. Another option is distributed energy generation which is popular in foreign countries.
The State-owned Kerala State Electricity Board is responsible for power generation and distribution in Kerala. Maybe, the State should let private parties like Tata or Reliance Power handle the scene better.
ThiruvananthapuramThe ‘N’ word
Neither small hydroelectric stations like Athirappilly nor wind turbines, which of course are environment-friendly, can meet our demand for power. Coal-based thermal plants too must be ruled out as they produce more carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming. There can be no doubt that the irregular rain pattern we experience is the result of global warming. The thermal plants also cause acid rain and other forms of pollution as the ash content of Indian coal is very high. The State government is trying to install thermal plants probably because China is building more and more thermal plants even now caring little for our good old earth. The only option for Kerala, or for that matter any region, is to go in for nuclear power, if we care for the wellbeing of future generations.
R. Venkita Giri
ThiruvananthapuramA national need
Monsoon often sticks to its reputation, plays truant. And people of Kerala go without enough electricity for months together. This is primarily due to Kerala’s excessive dependence on hydroelectric projects. Successive governments in Kerala have been blind to this scenario.
The State must turn to renewable energy sources to create a buffer grid. Solar energy has already gained popularity. Being in the tropical zone, the State can harness this source. Kerala can emulate Tamil Nadu in exploiting the wind energy. With its lengthy stretches of seacoast, installation of windmills will help tap clean energy. On the same ground, it can go for a viable technology to extract energy from sea waves.
Those at the helm of affairs should treat energy security as a foremost national need.
N. Sadasivan Pillai
By e-mailReduce consumption
The only solution to ease out of the present shortage of power supply is to reduce its consumption. Public must be sensitised to save electricity. In this the media can play a major role.
Unauthorised use of domestic and industrial power supply should be checked. There are hundreds of factories in the State, which are cheating the Kerala State Electricity Board. Surprise checks and raids must be conducted in these places and culprits must be heavily fined.
As the monsoon is not yet in full swing, we will have to depend on other States for electricity. Repairing the generators and finding some other alternative sources of electricity can also be tried out.
Kerala will be short of electricity in a few years and we will have to find out the alternative sources of energy very soon. The government, KSEB and the public at large should come together to face the situation. We should reduce the consumption of electricity in all levels. Streetlights should be switched off early in the morning. Misuse of electricity in government and quasi-government offices, hotels and private offices should be stopped at the earliest. The media can play a major role.
The rain gods did play tricks initially but now the monsoon has gathered momentum. But that should not stop the government from investigating why penstocks leaked so often. How many generators have caught fire and why? All this clearly point out to the lack of maintenance, supervision and failure to locate faults in time and take remedial action.
It can also be argued that it is the failure of the Minister concerned and his staff. Here is a utility department, which receives payment for its services. Is there a maintenance record of generators? Does anyone inspect transformers and check whether there is sufficient oil in it? The department must consider the anguish of the people who pay for the services. If the Minister concerned is sensible enough, he must privatise the department.
MannarFind out alternatives
The recent announcement of one-hour load shedding, which was later cut short to half-an-hour by the State government revealed that the State is weak in catering to the burgeoning power needs of its people. Kerala is yet to face acute shortage of power and water. This is the perfect time to switch over to alternate sources of power. The State should encourage the use of solar devices at both commercial and domestic levels. Promotion of other sources of energy by social organisations such as Kudumbashree units will prove effective. For instance, there are many single households, which have adopted biogas for safe and clean disposal of domestic wastes. Similar ventures can be initialised in regard of power consumption thereby, preventing load- sheddings in the future. Global warming and drastic climatic changes have grabbed all eyes and ears. Kerala, being a coastal State will be the first to be swallowed by the rising sea levels. Hence, the need of the hour is to switch over to nature- friendly methods to satisfy human wants and desires
MaraduStop power wastage
Since monsoon has proved to be unreliable, we had better rely on other non-conventional energy sources to overcome power deficit. A joint effort of the government and the public is needed. The government should extend financial support to individuals to produce energy for their domestic purposes. People too have to regulate power consumption, either by replacing 60W bulbs with 11W CFLs or fluorescent tubes. They can also install UPS inverters and solar panels at houses. As wind power is not plausible in Kerala, tidal energy must be tapped. We can rely on solar energy for our domestic needs and requirements in villages, schools and hospitals. Biomass energy is another source. Ravikumar N.
ThiruvananthapuramChange the mindset
No wonder that Kerala is groping in the dark this monsoon. The reasons are not far to seek. Kerala State Electricity Board is a leviathan unable to move an inch forward. The Centre had ordered restructuring of the Board into Generation, Transmission and Distribution sections, so that some viability is achieved. But the trade unions would not allow.
The Board has asked for more time to implement the restructuring. Generators and power stations are not well maintained. Meters are faulty, and the faulty ones are not replaced. No customer or industry is sure of a constant supply. Dependence on hydroelectricity alone is a risky affair.
The State does not want atomic power stations as it fears a Chernobyl from every atomic station. We have to change our mindset to get out of this situation.
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