Power Development in Kerala
ENLARGED AVAILABILITY of electric power is a crucial factor in the promotion of rapid economic development.1 This note discusses the major economic aspects of power development in Kerala prior to 1956, the year in which the present state came into being by the union of the former princely states of Travancore and Cochin, and addition of the Malabar district of the Madras presidency.
In 1950, on the eve of the first five year plan., Kerala was not far from the top of the league in availability and use of electricity. In installed capacity (per 1000 of population) Travancore-Cochin, as it then was, stood behind only five states out of sixteen in the Indian union. For electricity generation (per 1000 people) and annual per capita consumption, only four states were ahead of it: Delhi, Bombay, West Bengal and Mysore in that order.
Random references to the working of thermal plants are contained in the administration reports o'f Cochin state from 1916-17 onwards.2 Such plants supplied electrical energy to royal residences and government offices primarily for lighting purposes. The first attempt at generation on a commercial scale was made in 1935-36 when the Government of Cochin issued a licence to the Cochin State Power and Light Corporation for electrification of the towns of Ernakulam and Trichur and the suburbs.3
Subsequently were installed thermal power stations with diesel engines at Ernakulam, Trichur and Mattancherry, the distribution in Mattancherry being done by another private licensee, the Cochin Electric Company. Supply from the Pallivasal hydro-electric project in Travancore began in 1942, and by 1945-46, the entire requirements of Ernakulam and Mattancherry were met from this source.
Even though the development of hydro-electric power had attracted attention of the Cochin government as early as 1929-30, when a special staff of surveyors was deputed to conduct detailed surveys at Peringalkuthu, the project was launched only in 1946 and completed after considerable delay in 1958 when a 24,000 KW plant was commissioned.