The state’s power utility, which draws its sustenance from the rains, has never had it better.
Its reservoirs are 86 per cent full, and KSEB Limited is gleefully overworking its hydel stations. Before June, even half-way through June, only 15-10 per cent of the state’s power needs were met by the hydel stations; the stinginess was because KSEBL wanted to hold as much water it could in its fast-depleting reservoirs. Now, since July half when the reservoirs have begun to overflow, nearly 60 per cent of the power is sourced from hydel stations. Meaning, over half of the energy requirements are secured for less than Rs 2 a unit.
Anticipating a good monsoon KSEB had earlier estimated that the cumulative inflow into its reservoirs during July would be 1106.45 million units. As it turns out, the inflow till now, with a handful of days still left for the month to end, has been a stupendous 2433 MU. It might touch 3000 Mu by the end of the month. The inflow has been so torrential that while the reservoirs together utilised 36 million units of water on July 25, which in itself is unprecedented, the inflow into them was a whopping 136.59 MU. To get a perspective, it has to be noted that generation outsmarts inflow during most parts of the year.
The upshot is, the utility has no need to buy power from costly diesel and naphtha stations where power costs Rs 7-8 a unit. Fat to bursting reservoirs have also caused KSEBL to surrender its quota from the central generating stations.
This is not all. The utility is also minting money like never before. Setting a record of sorts, this month KSEBL has sold 129 million units of excess power through power exchanges at an average of Rs 3 a unit. It was only in 2013, another year when the monsoon was strong, that the sales figures came close. “It is not as if KSEB is on a selling spree. We sell power only if it gives the utility a profit. Otherwise, we use it for domestic purposes,” a top KSEBL official said.
However, industrial units are a bit peeved with the public utility. “While it goes about selling power at low rates outside, industrial units in the state are sold power by the KSEB at a costly rate of Rs 4 to Rs 5 per unit,” said A R Sateesh, the president of Kerala High Tension and Extra High Tension Industrial Electricity Consumers’ Association.
There is also the worry that the utility, in spite of the good times, will ask for a tariff revision soon. Satheesh said that KSEBL’s employee cost was skyrocketing like never before. He said its working employee cost had shot up by 309 per cent in a decade, from Rs 573 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 2348.63 crore in 2016-17. The fear is, KSEBL might use a tariff hike to absorb an employee cost that is uncontrollably swelling up like its reservoirs.