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With 25% energy loss, 'cruel joke' to rank Karnataka No 1 in efficiency index

By Shankar Sharma* 

It is hard to appreciate the true relevance of such indices in the Indian context, where the term 'efficiency' does not seem to be favoured either by the industry or the bureaucrats/politicians. It may be called as a sorry state of affairs at the global context to rank Karnataka as the highest even among Indian States.
In this context, it should become pretty obvious that the efficiency scenario must be pretty bad for the States in Group 3 and Group 4, which form the lower ranked 50% of the States. Some high level stats may drive home this view.
For decades the State of Karnataka seem to be struggling to take its T&D losses to below 18%, as against the world best practice of about 5%. The commonly reported low voltage profile in electricity infrastructure for rural areas is an indication that we have not cared enough for energy efficiency.
For a State, which has no coal reserve of its own, and which is also a water deficit State, to have six operational coal power projects, five of them being in water deficit north Karnataka, cannot be termed as efficient/responsible management of our resources.
The low average vehicle speed of 10-15 kMPH in Bengaluru roads, can hardly be called as an indication of efficiently utilising the mostly imported petroleum products.
Street lights glowing even during the day time in most parts of the State must indicate the importance the State has given to energy conservation.
Endowed with an enormous potential for solar power, the abysmal encouragement to rooftop solar systems (some people also call it as direct discouragement) as is seen in the State, can hardly be called as responsible or efficient management of this green energy source.
It cannot be an efficient policy to feed coal powered electricity to remote areas of the State such as Belgam, Bidar, Yadgir, Kolar, Chickaballapur, Chamarajanagar, Coorg, Hassan etc. from the plants in central Karnataka (such as Raichur/Bellary), when locally produced solar power can minimise or eliminate the associated T&D losses through roof top solar power systems.
The State has no qualms to allow its rich tropical forests in Western Ghats to be destroyed to build power lines (400 kV DC lines) across it to supply distant coal power to Kerala and Goa from Chattisgarh; instead of asking these States to fully harness their solar and wind power potential.
The State has many bureaucrats who can conjure up ill-conceived project proposals to take water from few reservoirs in the central part of Western Ghats (such as Linganamakki across the river Sharavathy) to Bengaluru over a distance of about 400 kM and against an elevation of few hundred feet without considering the enormous energy loss associated in the process. 
They have also come up with poorly substantiated pumped storage hydel power plant in a legally protected wildlife sanctuary again across the river Sharavathy conveniently ignoring the economic and technical implications of the loss of about 25% energy, which is inherent in such a power plant, and without bothering to consider various options to meet the electricity demand of the State.
The best source of electrical energy for about one million agricultural pump sets in the State, which is reported to be consuming about 35% of annual electrical energy in the State, should be the locally produced solar power. But the supply of electricity from distant coal/ hydel/ nuclear sources to these agricultural pump sets is leading to multiple problems such as massive energy losses, poor voltage regulation, and huge financial burden to the State government.
There is lack of a diligently prepared energy policy for the State for the next 25-30 years; especially in the context of climate change
The importance given by the State to demand side management and energy conservation can be at best called as callous.
Such concerns must be applicable to the other major energy sector i.e. petroleum products also. Karnataka is a State which has no indigenous source of petroleum products is not known to be making any diligent effort to optimise/minimise the consumption of these products, which is ever increasing at colossal cost to the nation.
All these points can be said to be aggravated by the lack of a diligently prepared energy policy for the State for the next 25-30 years; especially in the context of climate change.
In such a scenario, it can be called as a cruel joke on the people of this country to rank Karnataka as number one in efficiency index. It should be a massive concern even to imagine the low level of efficiency in the lower ranked States. Few years ago few States such as Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and North-Eastern States were reported to have transmission and distribution (T&D) loss of more than 60%.
It is sad that the enormous costs to the nation because of such gross inefficiencies has not been of any concern to the successive governments even since the last 2-3 decades.
It must be stated that the overall energy scenario indicates a sorry state of affairs not only in the State, but across the country wherein without making all possible efforts to take the associated measures on energy efficiency, demand side management and energy conservation to the level of global best practice, a lot of financial and natural resources are being wasted to prop up the energy sector; only leading to humongous and perpetual costs to the society, including the irreversible damage to the critically important biodiversity wealth of the State.
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*Power & Climate Policy Analyst, Vijayanagar 1st stage, Sagara, Karnataka

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