Delhi’s largest private power distributor was on Sunday given four days to improve the supply situation in the Capital, which has been experiencing prolonged outages over the last one week.
The charge against the distribution company, BSES (which owns Rajdhani Power Limited and Yamuna Power Limited), is mainly this: it failed to anticipate the shortage and didn’t buy enough electricity to bridge the gap.
“The CM has asked BSES to treat the current situation as its internal emergency and to anticipate power demand accurately,” said a statement issued by Sheila Dikshit’s office.
“Public anger is justified because there were power cuts for 8-10 hours a day,” said the utility’s Mumbai-based chairman Lalit Jalan, summoned by Dikshit to be read the riot act in person.
The supplier has been told to make good the shortfall by buying power “at whatever cost” or else the government “would be forced to take strict action”. The nature of punishment was not specified.
Hindustan Times was the first to highlight the unprecedented shortage of electricity in the city and that the suppliers were in denial about the exact magnitude of the crisis.
Delhi has been facing eight to 10 hours of power cuts every day, unannounced and unscheduled. People have also complained of unresponsive complaint centres.
There has been mounting anger with the power companies, widely expected to do much better than their inefficient state-owned predecessor, the Delhi Vidyut Board.
They have come out looking worse lately. The vidyut board used to announce power cut schedules letting people plan their response. At times they were quicker attending to faults.
After days in denial, BSES’s head honcho on Sunday admitted, in an interview to Hindustan Times, that there was indeed a crisis in the city and that the company completely failed to anticipate the surge in demand.
“Our (power) suppliers were hit by low generation, and our transformer/feeder network had high breakdowns because 50 per cent of it is old and needs replacement,” Jalan said after meeting Dikshit.
The suppliers – the other player in Delhi is the Tata-owned New Delhi Power Limited – were supposed to improve vidyut board’s rickety distribution network, given to frequent faults.
Jalan said there are lessons to be learnt from this crisis. BSES has in the past 24 hours augmented its fault repair team and helpline’s call-centre capacity by 30 per cent, and it had found some extra power, at a premium.
“We will buy 150 MW from the Power Exchange for around Rs 12 per unit, and the Centre would give us another 150 MW for around Rs 10 per unit. Things will improve by Wednesday,” he said.
These are almost three times the rate at which power is sold to consumers in Delhi. But none of it will be passed on to Delhiites. It will have to be borne entirely by the company, and not even by the government.
If things are already looking up, blame it on the weekend, when demand dips – the maximum load on Sunday was 3957 MW; 250 MW less than on Saturday. Monday on, it will be up again. Unless its rains.