The coastal state of Kerala has lately been focusing on strengthening its power sector, with adequate focus on generation, transmission and distribution to ensure quality power supply for the people. In terms of generation, the state depends heavily on hydropower to meet its energy requirements. According to the Central Electricity Authority, of the total installed capacity of 6,164 MW, the lion’s share of 1,864.15 MW of installed capacity comes from hydropower stations (as of July 2022). The state’s total thermal power capacity stands at 3,066.66 MW, comprising coal (2,058.92 MW), gas (533.58 MW), lignite (314.2 MW) and diesel (159.96 MW). The nuclear power capacity in the state is 362 MW. As Kerala is highly dependent on hydro, it is prone to power supply issues owing to a shortage of rainfall and erratic monsoons. Therefore, the state is trying to secure its energy supply by producing more renewable energy.
Although Kerala was one of the first states to announce a comprehensive renewable energy policy in 2002, its renewable energy deployments currently stand at less than 1 GW. According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Kerala has a total installed renewable power capacity of 953.88 MW as of August 2022, with around 622.36 MW coming from solar projects and 266.52 MW from small-hydro projects. The remaining is contributed by wind power (62.5 MW) and biopower (2.5 MW). However, Kerala has been making efforts to increase its renewable energy capacity, particularly solar, for a diversified energy mix.
Recent projects and tenders
Over the past few months, Kerala has seen several developments across various renewable energy segments, as the state and its agencies have been focusing on boosting renewable power generation. Interestingly, many of the recent developments have been in distributed solar, especially related to the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan Yojana (PM-KUSUM), which aims to solarise the energy requirements in the agriculture space. Some of the major developments have been highlighted below:
- In September 2022, the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) invited bids for procuring solar, wind and hydro power on a short-term basis to meet its renewable purchase obligations target for the period from November 1, 2022 to May 31, 2023.
- In August 2022, the Agency for New and Renewable Energy Research and Technology (ANERT) floated bids for the solarisation of 9,348 grid-connected agricultural pumps under Component C of PM-KUSUM, in Kerala. The pumps will range between 2 kW and 150 kW. The tender is anticipated to cost Rs 2.4 billion.
- In July 2022, ANERT invited bids for the design, supply, installation and commissioning of 20 MW of grid-connected rooftop solar systems. The individual capacities of the systems will range from 2 kW to 30 kW. Only solar modules listed on the MNRE’s Approved List of Models and Manufacturers will be used for the project. In the same month, Milma, the cooperative dairy facility administered by the Kerala state government, installed a 2 MW captive solar project at Ernakulum.
- In June 2022, Tata Power Solar Systems Limited commissioned a floating solar power project on a 350 acre waterbody in the backwaters area in Kayamkulam, Kerala. The project has an installed capacity of 101.6 MWp.
- In May 2022, KSEB issued a request for selection of developers to set up 65 MW of grid-connected wind power projects in Kerala under tariff-based competitive bidding.
- In April 2022, under the PM-KUSUM feeder-level solarisation programme, KSEB invited bids for the appointment of engineering, procurement and construction contractors to develop 11 MW of ground-mounted, grid-connected solar power projects at various locations in Kerala. The total project cost is approximately Rs 500 million.
- In March 2022, KSEB issued a request for selection for setting up grid-connected solar projects of an aggregate capacity of 34.5 MW near its substations under Component A of PM-KUSUM.
- In November 2021, KSEB issued a tender for setting up 40 MW of solar projects with individual capacities ranging from 500 kW to 2 MW under PM-KUSUM. The tariff ceiling for the tender is Rs 3.66 per kWh. In the same month, KSEB issued a request for qualification to set up to 100 MW of grid-connected floating solar projects on the design-build-own-operate model.
Green initiatives in the transport space
With clean energy deployment and utilisation now being an important consideration for almost every infrastructure project, Kerala’s transport agencies have taken impressive steps to decarbonise their operations. While Kochi airport and the city’s metro authority have made significant efforts to deploy renewable energy at their premises and increase their procurement of green power, the state is also massively encouraging the adoption of e-mobility through the deployment of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.
Decarbonising Kochi airport and metro
Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) is the second largest power producer in the state, after KSEB. CIAL, the world’s first airport to run fully on solar energy, has produced 250 MUs of electricity, helping eliminate 160,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. This solar energy production is in addition to CIAL’s hydroelectric project in Arippara in Kozhikode, where a run-of-the-river project has been set up to produce about 14 MUs of power annually.
CIAL set up a 100 kW solar farm on an experimental basis in 2013 as its first step towards turning into a fully solar-powered airport. The airport was able to achieve the status of a fully solar-powered institution in 2015, with a production capacity of 13.1 MW. The airport has around eight solar plants at present, which meet its requirements. The airport authority is also in the midst of planting vegetables in the solar fields under the agri-photovoltaic method.
Over the years, the Kochi Metro has used the land lying fallow near its depots for solar power generation. Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) became the first metro in the country to use solar power to supply 25 per cent of its power requirements, when its first phase was commissioned. The metro is now able to meet 50 per cent of its electricity needs through solar power, after implementing several solar projects. KMRL recently commissioned a 1.8 MW solar power station at its Muttom yard. Muttom’s plant was built as part of the third phase of KMRL’s solar project, which aims to produce 5.445 MW of electricity. This project is unique in that it taps into the open sky space provided by the metro tracks. The third phase of KMRL will have a total solar power generation capacity of 10.5 MWp. It will generate approximately 147.49 MUs per year, or 55 per cent of the total energy consumed.
With the state government pushing e-mobility, charging stations are being set up under the aegis of multiple agencies, including ANERT, the state-run KSEB and private players. In September 2022, ANERT announced its plans to launch a mobile app that can be used by EV users to locate and access the services of the EV charging stations operated by different agencies in the state.
ANERT aims to set up fast charging stations every 50 km along the national highway, state highways and the Main Central Road. ANERT has established 16 stations in public places under a special scheme. Six more are in the pipeline. Fast charging stations have also been established in Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta and Kozhikode, under a scheme that allows private players to set up stations for public use. The Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission is also planning to introduce a regulation governing the sale of electricity through EV charging stations. Recently, 145 new EV stations were set up by KSEB in Thiruvananthapuram district. In June 2022, KSEB partnered with Elocity to inaugurate a network of EV charging stations in Palakkad district. Prior to this, in October 2021, KSEB had invited bids for the supply of 200 EVs and 1,000 special purpose EVs, as well as the setting up of charging stations for commercial operation in the state.
The way forward
Kerala generates power mainly from four sources: hydro, thermal, wind and solar. Of these, hydro and thermal power generation account for the considerable majority, whereas wind and solar make only marginal additions. The state has been lagging behind in overall solar installations. The recent bid issuances and project developments, however, point to a positive outlook for renewable energy in the state.
Further, the Kerala government has announced its ambition to become carbon-neutral by 2050, with a focused approach towards the growth of renewable energy. Going forward, the state needs a streamlined and targeted approach, with a competitive market for the private sector and regulatory clarity, to achieve its green aims.
By Anusshka Duggal