Early Efforts in Kerala Electricity Sector (1900-1929)
The electricity sector in Kerala saw its beginnings in the early 1900s when the British company, the Kannan Devan Hill Produce Company in Munnar, took the first steps. They established Kerala's maiden hydroelectric project in 1900, which was commissioned by 1910 with a modest capacity of 200kW.
Around 1912-13, the government of Travancore started contemplating the significance of electricity generation more seriously. Consequently, in 1913, a dedicated team led by Chief Engineer Sri. S.M Jacob was formed to explore the feasibility of electricity generation across the Travancore, Kochi, and Malabar states. In 1927, the Travancore Government made the decisive move to generate electricity for the households in Thiruvananthapuram city, leading to the formation of an Electricity Division under the Public Works Department. Finally, in 1929, a Diesel Power Station, under Government ownership, was established in Thiruvananthapuram to commence commercial electricity production. This station featured three oil engine generators with a capacity of 65 kW each, and it initiated commercial production in 1929 with a total installed cost of Rs. 9 lakh. Subsequently, several private-sector agencies also came forward to produce electricity.
The next significant development was the establishment of a dedicated department for electricity. In 1933, His Highness Sri Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma Maharaja and his Diwan Sir C P Ramaswami Iyer formed an Electricity Department under the Travancore Government. The formation of this Electricity Department paved the way for notable advancements in the sector. Thermal generating stations were set up in Kollam, Kottayam, and Nagercoil in 1934. By this time, the potential of hydroelectric generation had begun to draw the attention of technologists and authorities alike.
In 1933, work commenced on the first hydroelectric power station during the reign of the Maharaja of Travancore, located in Pallivasal, a village in the southwestern part of the Idukki district. On March 19, 1940, Sir C P Ramaswamy Iyer, the then Dewan of Travancore, inaugurated the first stage of the Pallivasal project, which boasted an initial installed capacity of 13.5 MW. This marked a significant milestone as the project was set up to serve the power needs of the general public. In addition, the State Electricity Department took over the 200 kW power station in 1928 from the Kannan Devan Hill Produce Co. During this period, a comprehensive electric transmission network was also completed, featuring 66 kV substations at Alappuzha, Mavelikkara, Kothamangalam, Kundara, Kalamassery, Viyyur, Aluva, and Thiruvananthapuram, all of which were commissioned in 1940 during April and May.
Post-Independence Consolidation (1950s-1980s)
On November 1, 1956, Kerala was formed through the merger of the Travancore-Cochin state with the Malabar district of Madras State, including Fort Cochin and the Laccadive Islands, along with Kasaragod taluk of the South Canara district and the Amindivi Islands. The southern part of Travancore-Cochin, comprising the five taluks of Agastheeswaram, Thovala, Kalkulam, Vilavancode, and Shencotta, was transferred from Travancore-Cochin to the Madras State. This reorganization resulted in an increase in the number of assembly constituencies, from 106 to 126 seats in 1957. The Election Commission of India conducted elections for the newly created state between February 28 and March 11, 1957.
In accordance with the powers conferred by Section 5 of the Electricity (Supply) Act 1948, the newly formed Government of Kerala, elected through the first general election, constituted the Kerala State Electricity Board on March 7, 1957. The board was tasked with the responsibility of generating, transmitting, and distributing electricity, with the aim of providing quality electricity at an affordable cost to all classes of consumers in the state of Kerala. Kerala State Electricity Board commenced functioning on March 31, 1957, as per order no. EL1-6475/56/PW dated March 7, 1957, of the Kerala State Government. It had five members, with Sri K P Sreedharan Nair as the chairman. All the staff belonging to the erstwhile Electricity Department was transferred to the Board, effectively establishing the 'Board' consisting of the chairman and the Members as the Supreme Governing Body.
At the time of its inception, in 1958, the KSEB had an installed capacity of 109.5 MW, with a total annual internal generation of 441.35 MU. Fourteen years after the commissioning of Pallivasal, the second powerhouse of the state of Kerala, the Sengulam powerhouse with an installed capacity of 48 MW (4x12MW), was commissioned. The 300 MW Sabarigiri Hydro Electric Project, which was added to the Kerala System in 1966, enjoyed the special status of having a capacity higher than the capacities of all the other projects, including Sholayar, which was also in the final stages of commissioning in 1966, in the Kerala system put together. Sabarigiri also elevated Kerala to a power-surplus state in 1966.
However, the demand for power was steadily growing at a faster pace. Since then, project after project was added to the Kerala power system until 1976, when the first stage of Idukki HEP, with a capacity of 390 MW (3x130MW), was commissioned. When stage II of Idukki, with a capacity of 390 MW, was also added in 1986, Idukki HEP became the largest project in Kerala, with a total capacity of 780 MW. The project was dedicated to the nation on February 12, 1976, by the then Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi. The Idukki project continues to be the largest project, hydro or otherwise, of the KSEBL to date. There are three Dams associated with this project.
Hydroelectric Focus and Modernization (1980s)
After the commissioning of Idukki HEP in 1986, hydroelectric projects played a significant role in capacity addition. Projects such as the 75 MW Idamalayar, the 150 MW Kuttiyadi Extension Schemes, the 180 MW Lower Periyar, and the 50 MW Kakkad project contributed substantially to the state's power generation capacity. However, proposals for major hydel projects like Silent Valley and Pooyamkutty did not materialize due to issues related to environmental clearance. Despite this, KSEB focused on small hydel projects and commissioned 15 projects during this time.
Transition and Modernization -Formation of Profit Centers (1999-2003):
Consistent with the State Power Policy declared in 07/1998, the reorganization of the activities of the Board under three Profit Centres came into effect during 1999-2000.
As per the reorganized structure, Generation, Transmission, and Distribution functioned as separate profit centers controlled by independent Members and for an effective and smooth functioning, other functions of the Board were controlled by the Corporate office. Under the Corporate Office, there was an exclusive functional unit to handle matters of Finance headed by the Member(Finance) and other important units were directly controlled by the Chairman.
Transition as a Transmission utility and Distribution licensee (2004-2008):
By the enforcement of the Electricity Act 2003, in consistency with the State Power Policy, the Board has three independent business entities namely the Generation Profit Centre, Transmission Profit Centre, and Distribution Profit Centre, and a Corporate Office. The Kerala State Electricity Board continued its functioning as a Transmission utility and Distribution licensee with effect from 10.12.2004 under section 172(a) of the Electricity Act 2003 as mutually decided by the Government of India and the Government of Kerala and continued till 24-09-2008.
In exercise of the powers conferred under sub-sections (1), (2), (5), (6), and (7) of Section 131 of the Electricity Act 2003, the State Government issued a notification, G.O (Ms).37/2008/PD, dated September 25, 2008. This notification vested all functions, properties, interests, rights, obligations, and liabilities of KSEB with the State Government until they were re-vested in a corporate entity.
Transformation as a Company (2008-13):
Kerala State Electricity Board Limited (KSEBL) embarked on its journey under the Indian Companies Act, 1956, on January 14, 2011. It commenced operations as an independent company on November 1, 2013, following the issuance of the Certificate of Commencement of Business on June 6, 2013.
In a further exercise of powers under Section 131 (2) of the Electricity Act 2003, the Government of Kerala (GoK) introduced the Kerala Electricity Second Transfer Scheme (Re-vesting) 2013 through a notification, GO (P) No. 46/2013/PD, dated October 31, 2013. This scheme re-vested all the assets, liabilities, rights, and obligations that were initially transferred to the State Government by the first transfer scheme dated September 25, 2008, into the successor entity, Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd (KSEBL).
Modernization and Sustainability (2013 to Present):
In recent times, KSEBL has focused on enhancing its services and efficiency. To provide better customer service and enhanced customer satisfaction, KSEBL established a Centralised Customer Care Centre and a 24*7 Centralised Call Centre under PART- A of the RAPDRP scheme. As part of the ease of doing business, the customer web self-service portal was also developed and thereby consumers can avail services in a hassle-free manner.
In 2017, Kerala achieved total household electrification, becoming the first state in India to do so, a significant milestone in providing power to all residents. In 2018, Kerala launched the 'Urjja Kerala Mission,' a comprehensive program aimed at the integrated development of the electricity sector. This mission includes energy conservation, safety, distribution, transmission, and solar power generation initiatives, aligning with the national goal of achieving 100 GW of solar projects by 2022.
As part of the 'SOURA Rooftop Projects,' Kerala aims to establish 500 MWp of solar power plants on rooftops of various buildings. This project encourages consumers to actively participate in energy production and contributes to the state's energy sustainability. As of March 31, 2023, Kerala's total solar capacity has reached 765 MW, reflecting its commitment to renewable energy.
KSEBL is designated as the nodal agency for installing electric vehicle charging stations as per the EV policy 2019 of the Government of Kerala. KSEBL has installed 66 DC fast charging stations for four-wheelers across the state and 1166 pole-mounted charging stations for auto-rickshaws and two-wheelers in all constituencies in Kerala. KSEBL has also launched a dedicated mobile app - KeMapp for charging E-vehicles.
The journey of Kerala's electrification has come a long way, and it continues to evolve to meet the growing demand for electricity in the state while embracing sustainability, modernization, and the changing regulatory landscape. Thus, KSEBL is committed to aligning with the State's solar policy, with a primary focus on increasing renewable energy electricity generation to work towards the goal of achieving carbon neutrality.