THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala State Electricity Board Limited seems to suffer the same predicament as that of Kerala. Its major assets, like the state's population, are ageing at a fast pace. And now the public utility has sought more money from the Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC) for the upkeep of its 'greying' hydel stations. About 984 MW of KSEBL's hydel capacity, which is nearly 50 per cent of its total generation capacity, has completed its useful life and, according to the board, are run without renovation and modernisation.
All its major stations - Sholayar, Kuttiadi, Idukki and Idamalayar - are more than 30 years old. Sholayar is the oldest, its 18-MW first unit is more than 50 years old. The 75-MW Kuttiadi plant is 45 years old. Three of the six units of the 780-MW Idukki Hydel stations are 41 years old. KSEB has argued that such stations that run on borrowed time required higher allocations for maintenance.
To prevent criticism that pumping in more money would widen its already yawning deficit, the board has argued that the demand was reasonable. "Even if more money is spent on the operation and maintenance expenses of these stations, the actual O&M cost of these will be below the benchmark norms for hydro stations as approved by Central Electricity Regulatory Commission," the board has stated in its submission before the ERC.
The O&M expenses approved by Central Electricity Regulatory Commission for stations like the 180-MW Baira Siul project (Himachal Pradesh), the 66-MW Loktak Project (Manipur), the 94.2-MW Tanakpur project (Uttaranchal), the 120-MW Sewa-II Project (Jammu and Kashmir), and the 390-MW Dul Hasti project (Jammu and Kashmir) range from Rs 40 lakh per MW to Rs 104 lakh per MW. But the average O&M cost for KSEBL hydel plants is just Rs 9.59 lakh per MW. "Considering that the O&M costs incurred by KSEBL are much lower than the bench mark, our stand is that the ERC should even do away with the customary prudence check before approving higher O&M costs for the state's hydel stations," a top KSEBL official said....