Thursday, August 19, 2004

Moves afoot to improve quality of power

No trip-tease, only cash crunch
Moves Afoot To Improve Quality Of Power In Bangalore
Times of India

Bangalore: The IT capital of India — the tag automatically pre-supposes that Bangalore would have the best power supply in the country. But the problems that plague every IT hub — including US’ Silicon Valley and Singapore’s version of it, Suntec city — haunt Bangalore. Power supply is sacrosanct, costly and always outstripped by demand.

But power scene is not all dismal — no frequent power trippings or fluctuations. Though more is to be done. With an average of six multinational companies setting up shop in Bangalore every week, the demand for power is undoubtedly heavy. The city is said to be growing at more than 10 per cent annually and load forecasts show that within five years, the present demand of 18 million units will double to 36 million per day.

As it is, meeting the present demand is no easy task, given that some of the power cables are over 25 years old and use rather obsolete technology. According to conservative official estimates, the city needs about Rs 60 crore investment every year, if it is to keep up with the increasing demand. Karnataka’s power sector is severely cash-strapped and the distribution company for Bangalore city — Bescom — is saddled with low revenue areas like Kolar and Chitradurga. So, making provision for the kind of investment needed is a daunting task. “Even by Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation (KPTC) estimates, over Rs 800 crore is needed to set up sub-stations in the next two years,’’ Bescom managing director Bharat Lal Meena said. But perhaps all is not lost, as the will to act is apparent.

Bangalore, which was buckling under severe criticism from IT czar Azim Premji last year, has definitely managed to shore up its quality of power supply. And the industry appears to acknowledge this. As a KPTC official put it: “At the recent meeting of the CM with IT bigwigs, only one person complained, that too because our lines are being restrung due to road widening in Whitefield. Naturally, this implies that our quality has improved.’’

Meena backs this assumption with figures: Bangalore’s power reliability index is 99.2 per cent — in other words, the number of interruptions in power supply is next to nothing. And power losses in the city are unbelievably low, even lesser than industrial Mecca, Mumbai: it is 11.3 per cent against Mumbai’s 11.75 per cent. The quality is set to improve even further as a Rs 338.28 crore package is being implemented in the city under the Centre’s accelerated power development and reforms programme. This money is being used to give Bangalore’s long suffering cables and distribution network a complete makeover — for the first time in 102 years!

The oldest power cables in Bangalore on Sheshadri Road, Anand Rao Circle, Kumara Krupa Road, Sampangiramanagar, Cantonment station and MG Road are at least 25 years old. “These cables are insulated with paper impregnated lead, which results in very faulty supply. This kind of cable is not even made now,’’ Bescom officials admitted. Officials said that ideally, all cables should go underground and this will proof all lines from weather problems. “But the cost is prohibitive — we need Rs 10-12 lakh for 1 km of underground cable as against Rs 2 lakh for an overhead line. Even industry cannot compensate for this,’’ they admitted.


Post a Comment

<< Home