Demand shock shuts Karnataka’s three thermal power plants | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU: Karnataka, which was a power deficit state 10 years ago, now faces an energy crisis of a different kind: there’s more electricity generation than demand, which has been hit by the pandemic. Heavy and medium-scale industries are consuming less power than before, and the poor demand has forced Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) to temporarily shut three thermal power plants.
The operations at the plants, two in Raichur district and one in Ballari, were first halted two months ago. This is the first time in Karnataka’s history since 1986 that all three facilities, with 13 thermal units, have been put into sleep mode. A senior government official said KPCL tried to resume operations at the thermal power plants once, but the attempt was short-lived because high power generation and lower demand in the state were destabilising the grid.
Karnataka has reopened most parts of its economy, but the drop in energy consumption is a possible sign that industries are struggling to restore manufacturing levels that they had achieved before the Covid-19 crisis erupted.
It’s not just thermal units. Hydroelectric power stations are also functioning at basic levels, according to officials in the energy department. Six of the 16 stations have also suspended operations as the government is struggling to secure demand for even 10 per cent of the available capacity.
Confirming temporary plant closures, KPCL managing director V Ponnuraj said: “Due to a lack of demand, we have been forced to shut down all three thermal power plants and run hydropower plants at bare minimum.” KPCL has a power generation capacity of 8,686MW, but currently, it produces only 600MW to 1,200MW, said government officials.
According to KPTCL’s website, the state-wide demand fell to 6,943MW on August 21 as against 9,500MW to 10,000MW recorded during this period in a normal year. “And this figure (9,500MW to 10,000MW) is only during the lean season, between June and September. On an average, Karnataka normally consumes at least 12,500MW of power each day,” said a senior official in the energy department.
Many factories have decreased production because of an “unfavourable” market situation and therefore, they were consuming less energy, said industry associations. Production levels have reportedly dropped to 40 to 50 per cent. The automobile sector’s figure is 20 to 30 per cent.
“Earlier, manufacturing units had four to five shifts. Currently, there are two or three. Because of a lack of demand, units are working at half strength to reserve cash,” said BC Prabhakar, president, Karnataka Employers Association. There’s one upside: daily demand and consumption of renewable energy has shot up by 60-80 per cent as many industries are using captive power capacity (solar, wind, CoGen and biomass).
“This effectively suggests there is a change in the renewable energy category,” said a government official.

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Sagar Biswas

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