Even as environmental concerns have effectively put a brake on big hydel projects, the draft Kerala Perspective Plan 2030 released by the State Planning Board stresses that tapping the hydel potential is essential for meeting the state’s long-term energy requirements.

“The importance of hydel power cannot be over-emphasised in Kerala given that it is the cheapest power source for it. It is the backbone for Kerala’s energy,” the draft plan has noted. But the draft plan also cautions that the state should have an amalgam of energy choices, blending renewable energy sources as a backup for bad monsoon years.

For instance, 2012-13 was a bad year for electricity as both the monsoons failed, but 2013-14 more than compensated for it. But, the draft plan notes that the effects of a bad monsoon can trickle down the next four to five years. Even though hydel power accounts for 82.6 per cent of the state’s installed capacity, the share of hydel power in the total available power hovers around 44 per cent only, the draft plan notes, citing 2012 Economic Review figures. The share, in fact, had stood at 49.4 per cent in 2007-08.

At a time when the Kasturirangan report and the older Gadgil committee report on protecting the Western Ghats are hotly debated, Kerala’s draft perspective plans assumes significance, especially for the power sector. Majority of the KSEB’s hydel projects are located in this eco-sensitive green belt, a fact that had even forced the power utility – specifically in the case of the 137 MW Athirappally project –  to demand cheap power from the Centre for shelving hydel development projects.

The draft Perspective Plan emphasises the importance of small hydro power, noting that the Small Hydro Power Policy of 2012, prepared by the Energy Management Centre, is a first step in this direction.

The policy has set a goal of generating 150 MW from Small Hydro Power Projects by 2017 through private participation.

“Detailed studies will be done starting from the gram panchayat level about the economically feasible hydro energy in that area that can be harnessed,” draft plan noted. While outlining the solar energy initiatives on the anvil, the draft plan adds that offshore wind energy is not viable for Kerala “because of the presence of the Western Ghats and the depth of the sea coast off Kerala.”

Courtesy: The New Indian Express