How long a power cut is unreasonably long, according to the Delhi government?
The answer will ‘shock’ you: anything longer than an hour, especially if it happens everyday. “Unforeseen situations apart, ideally an area should not be facing scheduled power cuts for more than an hour once in two days,” Rajendra Kumar, Delhi’s power secretary, told Hindustan Times on Tuesday.
Yet, on Tuesday, as the mercury rose close to 44° Celsius, fans, airconditioners and lights kept going out while local power transformers repeatedly tripped.
Tuesday’s peak power demand was 3848 MW, which the power secretary termed manageable.
“We had prepared for 4400 MW, but technical glitches affect smooth operations,” Kumar said.
Residents obviously aren’t pleased.
“Every time, the power cut lasts at least an hour. And there are six to seven such outages each day,” said Pankaj Aggarwal, general secretary of a federation of residents’ welfare associations (RWAs) and resident of Safdarjung Enclave in South Delhi.
In Dwarka, for instance, there was no power between 1 am and 3 am, over and above the 4-5-hour daily outage.
“We are practically living on the diesel generator,” said D. Jose, a businessman based in Dwarka’s Sector 5.
Residents are angry about distcoms not providing them with outage schedules and the helplines not providing any information.
“The helplines are a waste of time,” said Satyajit Vaish of the RWA at Panchsheel Park in South Delhi.
“While we had power, the voltage was so low we could not run appliances,” he said.
The Delhi government blamed the heat and the under-frequency relays of the Northern Grid.
“There have been cases of unforeseen breakdowns of transformers. Plus, when there are low-frequency relays in the Northern Grid, we have to suffer,” said Kumar.
Promised 4143 MW, but tripping on 3848
In this torrid summer, the tall promises are being broken on the pretext of something or the other.
In a letter to the Union power ministry in April, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had claimed that the demand for power could range between 3650 MW and 4100 MW, and that her government could handle a bit more — up to 4143 MW.
It took just two months for the hollowness of the claims to show.
Delhi is reeling under 8-10-hour outages and most of the sources it had banked on have yielded nothing.
Grappling even with a demand way below the 4000 MW mark, Delhi is blaming the states, the weather, outdated infrastructure and just about everything but itself.
“The power availability shown in the summer plan included the power from the Central unallocated sector, which Delhi had not got. So, it was an inflated figure to begin with,” said a senior government official requesting anonymity.
Moreover, something does not quite add up in this summer of load shedding.
On average, the peak power demand has been lower than what was anticipated. And when compared to the same period a year ago, the average demand has been lower by a few hundred megawatts.
During the same period, data with the Northern Grid shows that Delhi has not been drawing its full share of power on most days in the last three weeks.
“So, the situation is that there are unplanned outages on days when Delhi could have drawn its share from the grid and met the demand but did not,” the official said.
“The demand was contained by not supplying power that was often there for the taking.”