Friday, June 13, 2014

Power Interruptions: No Regret!

Power Interruptions:
No Regret!

By Zubair Ahmed

Electricity department never had an enviable record of efficient service, but for a short period. Nagging interruptions of short and long durations, twenty five to thirty times a day says a lot about a department, which is entangled more in litigations and arbitrations rather than efficient power supply to consumers.

There is no shortage in generation. The peak load demand in South Andaman is just touching 38 MW and the generating capacity above 40 MW. The consumers are in perpetual distress though. Nobody knows when the supply would trip and one would be plunged in darkness. The irritating on now, off now keeps on playing hide and seeks with the poor consumers. Whether there is wind, storm, rain or a clear weather, interruptions continue.

There are no explanations. In our country no service provider ever offers an explanation nor extends an apology though. Except of course, Doordarshan in good old days, when it used to say ‘Sorry for interruption’ or ‘Rukawat ke liye khed hai’.

Recently, a series of review meetings were held by the Lieutenant Governor to take stock of the status of various departments. And,  Electricity Department was also one of them. It was heartening to note that various long-term plans are envisioned. Liberating the Islands from diesel-based power generation seems to be the mantra. Ambitious projects like CNG-based power plant, exploration of tidal wave energy, wind energy and solar energy are part of the vision.

As of now, except the 5 MW Solar Plant and the hydel project at Diglipur, the whole territory is energised by diesel gensets operated by the Department, Independent Power Plant and Hired Power Plants.

The total installed capacity of Diesel Generating Power stations run by  Electricity Department in A&N Islands is 63.7 MW. Apart from these, in South Andaman, IPP Surychakra has an installed capacity of 20 MW, but only 3 DG sets generates 15 MW, HPP Sudhir Ready Gensets have 16MW and Bharat Engineering Works has installed capacity of 5 MW.

The two power houses at Chatham and Phoenix Bay have a combined capacity of 23 MW. And the NTPC installed Solar Power Plant in Garacharma has an installed capacity of 5MW, which at optimum level produces 3 MW.

The private players generates 80% of required power in South Andaman. The performance of Dept run power houses are nothing to go gaga about.

The total peak time requirement in South Andaman is 37 MW. Presently, there is no power shortage with surplus power generation in South Andaman, but the situation as far as power supply is concerned is not very good. The Transmission and Distribution Loss is still around 18-19%. Most of the rural areas experience long spells of powerlessness and is plunged into darkness due to poor transmission lines and lack of maintenance.

"As the DG sets at Chatham and Phoenix Bay are very old, the Department will be installing new DG Sets adding 5 MW in six months," said Suresh Kumar Bhandari, Secretary, Power.

The focus of the department might be on increasing generation, but the real problem lies somewhere.

The transmission network in South Andaman is in complete disarray. With a leaf falling on power line in Jirkatang, 18 villages under Bambooflat feeder will be plunged into darkness. A snap in Shoal Bay can bring darkness in Ferrar Gunj and Hope Town.

In fact, the solution doesn't require rocket science, but willpower and a sense of urgency to overcome the crisis, which is lacking. It was decided long back that a sub-station will be set up close to the power house at Bambooflat bifurcating Panel 5 feeder into three feeders, reducing downtime incase of faults.

The Lieutenant Governor, when visited Stewart Gunj on his familiarization tour on 8th August 2013, the matter was brought to his notice by Citizens Forum.

In the presence of the Lieutenant Governor, the senior officials of the department had promised to complete the installation of sub-station by September 2013. The work is still on and without much progress.

"Due to delay in civil works, the project got stuck," said Raveendran, SE in Charge. "However, now the building is ready and installation of panels are on the way and we are expediting the work and it might take another two months," he said.

The line which goes to Ferrar Gunj is most vulnerable and prone to failure most of the time during day and night. The Department doesn't seems to have a solution yet. And the irony is that many villages in between Wimberly Gunj and Ferrar Gunj has to bear the brunt if the line trips anywhere in Mile Tilak or Jirkatang.

"We have been approaching the department at all levels to connect the transformer at Knappuram directly from Wimberly Gunj," said a resident who has been taking up the issue regularly.

"There is acute shortage of manpower, spares and materials to carry out the work,' said Raveendran, who is also Executive Engineer, South Andaman.

Its ghastly that procurement of cables and other materials to carry out the repair and maintenance is the reason behind delay in carrying out the works. The Store is directly under the purview of Superintending Engineer, who is not even aware of the requirements. Even after placing indents, it never gets the attention of the seniors, who are mostly invisible.

The junior staff at various site offices in rural areas have to face the music for no fault of theirs.

The issue of power crisis in Rangat and Mayabunder region is nothing but artificial. Three DG Sets with an installed capacity of 1 MW was hired by the Department from Tractor India. The sets are all shut down for non-payment of dues. The reason that the firm has been penalised for failure in generating the required unit of power per litre.

With the DG sets installed near the Power House at Panighat, near Austin Strait shut down, the whole area is pushed back into darkness. And the Department has literally failed to draw required power from Rangat Power House.

Wherever the Department has engaged private players to generate power, it is on constant dispute and on collision course. And at the same time, the department run power houses have an all time record of sub-optimal performance as well as high cost of generation.

Its high time, the Administration takes serious note of the situation of transmission and distribution and judiciously distribute the costly power generated by Diesel run DG Sets. Or, all the talk about austerity and saving power by consumers doesn't make sense when the Department practically fails in supplying the generated power to the consumers.