According to reports, the relaxation of power cut restrictions on high tension (HT) consumers can also lead to problems for some.
Since the middle of August when the State government lifted the restrictions, about a dozen biomass power plants, which were till then meeting energy requirements of many HT consumers substantially, have scaled down their production drastically, as the demand has virtually vanished. Even though 20 per cent power cut is in force with effect from October 1 for 5,585 connections belonging to categories of the HT industrial units and commercial establishments, they have not been generating power to the extent they did earlier, says G. Suresh, president of the Bio Mass Power Producers Association, Tamil Nadu (BPPA).
As there are no takers for biomass power which is costlier than other sources of renewable energy and that supplied by the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco), the producers stopped buying bio-fuel – juliaflora and agriculture waste – from the farmers. This situation has, in turn, forced the agricultural community in southern and western districts to send petitions to District Collectors concerned for intervention from the government.
Rama Gounder, general secretary of the Tamizhaga Vivasaiygal Sangam and an agriculturist based in Krishnagiri district, says that the government should direct Tangedco to buy power from the private biomass power producers so that the farmers would eventually get benefited.
According to data provided by the Association, there are 13 biomass power plants in operation, of which six are in the southern districts of Sivaganga, Virudhunagar, Theni and Tirunelveli. Their installed capacity is about 122 MW. There are three more plants, two of which are in southern districts. These plants of 43 MW are not in operation now.
“At the peak demand, about one and a half years ago, the plants cumulatively sold 100 MW. Now, they may be selling 20 MW to 25 MW,” explains Mr Suresh. After the present government took over in May 2011, it allowed unconditional intra-State third party sale and thanks to power shortage, there was immediate market too for such power. But, the demand for biomass power “disappeared overnight,” he says, when the government, in mid-August, temporarily removed 40 per cent power cut on the HT units during most of the time in a day. As the average cost of biomass power is in the range of Rs. 6.5 per unit to Rs. 7 per unit [which the Association attributes to the steep rise in fuel cost], the HT customers prefer to buy power from the Tangedco, whose tariff of energy charges for HT industry is Rs. 5.50 per unit.
One can understand the situation of the biomass power producers but a senior official says that the producers have to offer a “viable tariff.” It is up to them to approach the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission and have the tariff approved, the official adds.