Thursday, August 19, 2004

Power quality poorest in Bangalore

Poles apart, but it’s time to switch over

Bangalore: Power fluctuations — what’s that? This the question the man in charge of power supply for Bangalore asks. A question that speaks volumes about the city, which experienced two-hour shutdowns even last summer. But Bescom chief engineer (BMAZ) H.K. Kumaraswamy has grounds to speak with confidence on the quality of power supply now, as: “We hardly receive any complaints of low voltage or serious trouble from the city.’’ Even as Bangalore gets rather smug about its improved power status, The Times of India did a comparison of what the supply of power is like in other Indian cities and found several tip-offs for Bangalore.

Mumbai: Quoted by all as the best example of power supply and infrastructure in India, Mumbai gets power from three private agencies: BEST, Tata Power Company and Reliance Energy (known as BSES till Reliance took over last year). The state-owned Maharashtra State Electricity Board caters to only a couple of suburbs.

All suppliers generate power except BEST which buys power from Tata Power and sells it to consumers. Tata Power has a unique islanding system that snaps its grid off from the state’s supply the moment disturbances threaten to disrupt it. This has protected the suburban rail system from collapsing each time there is a frequency or voltage problem on the state grid. Reliance Energy also has such a system but has not been able to demonstrate its efficiency. But Mumbai, like Bangalore, has been prioritised in power supply so there is never any load-shedding here, though the rest of the state including IT hubs like Navi Mumbai and Pune suffer from this problem. The state is at least 1,000 MW short of power on any given day. Most power cuts in city are due to incidents such as tripping of a transmission line or transformer failure and these are usually localised events. Of late though, the suburbs are getting increasingly affected by blackouts that hit the western or state grid.

New Delhi: Summer 2004 for Delhiites has been a horror story. Power cuts that lasted 12-18 hours, dips in frequency and poor redressal mechanism was punctuated by a weak distribution system and faulty billing.

Two years after privatisation, the power sector in Delhi has seen some change with stable power supply. But unscheduled power cuts and long hours of breakdowns in certain areas have continued. The 29 lakh consumers in Delhi who provided power by companies Tata-owned North Delhi Power Limited (NDPL) and Reliance’s BSES. Though new technology in bill collection and metering standards have been introduced, Delhi residents are not happy with the existing conditions. Delhi loses all its points over power generation: The city only produces 17% of its own power demand as against Punjab (59%), Rajasthan (40%) and Uttar Pradesh (51%). So the city-state is heavily dependent on the vagaries of the Northern Grid. As for the industry, power-intensive ones have been made distinctively unwelcome in the capital.

Kolkata: From being the city with the worst power infrastructure in the 1970s to one with the best since the mid-1980s, the transformation of Kolkata has been amazing. Today, the city boasts of arguably the best power availability. Power cuts are rare and occur only when breakdowns coincide with scheduled maintenance shutdown of plants. Since 99% of power is distributed through underground cables, fluctuations too are rare.

The nearly century-old private sector power utility CESC Ltd generates nearly 1,000 MW — four-fifths of the power required by the city during the peak evening hours. The rest is supplied by West Bengal State Electricity Board (WBSEB). The satellite township Salt Lake that comprises the IT hub is serviced by WBSEB. “IT companies maintain a backup facility for comfort rather than need,’’ said PricewaterhouseCooper chairman Rathin Datta. The city has consistently received top ‘power’-ratings in all surveys over the last few years and remains one of the primary draws for businesses from other parts of the country.

Hyderabad: The city does not suffer from even unscheduled power cuts. Neither is there frequent voltage fluctuation. There is interruption in the power supply only when the Central Power Distribution of AP Ltd (CPDCL) announces maintenance works in transformers or feeders. CPDCL has come up with a novel plan to number electricity poles that serve the customers. This helps in easy redressal of complaints This year, the CPDCL started lying underground cables, at a cost of about Rs 289 crore, in four reaches in the city. As for industrial supply, it has improved tremendously in the last five years. “When compared to cities like Bangalore, the supply is very good here. We use the generators in our Banjara Hills office only to keep it in running condition, as there is little to no use for it otherwise,’’ Sanjay Khendy, vice-president, Sierra Atlantic said.

Chennai: The power situation in Tamil Nadu is probably the best in the country. A case in point is the agreement between Ford India Ltd and TN government. Ford operates in India without any provision for back-up power — no gensets or captive power plants. “We’ve been operating near Chennai for more than five years now. Till date, we’ve not encountered any power cuts at all. The quality of power is excellent. I can recall only one incident in the last five years, when there was a brief stoppage of electricity and that too because of a fire accident in the transmission station,’’ said Ford India Ltd spokesperson Vinay Piparsania. Unlike all the other metros, Chennai does not have a special agency to oversee its power requirements. The state-owned Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) itself handles it as a routine part of its activities and ensures 24/7 supply.


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