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How your city became impowerished

The distcoms are still in denial but the underlying reasons for the crisis are evident. HT reports.

delhi Updated: Jun 26, 2009 01:13 IST

Distcoms didn’t arrange for power

It’s the same excuse every summer. The distcoms say the hydropower generation has been low and that supplying utilities have played spoilsport.

But the fact is, hydropower is erratic this time of the year as snowfall in Jammu and Kashmir and adjoining areas freeze the rivers while in some other parts water levels do fall every year. This is nothing new and should not have been unforeseen.

“Moreover, they have banked on players like Damodar Valley Corporation, which has not been supplying its quota of power for the past few years. Just that distcoms did not go in for proper tie-ups in advance,” said a power department official.

The distcoms go shopping for power at the eleventh hour after the power situation has aggravated.

“Now power trading has been legalised so distcoms can buy power when they need it. But in Delhi distcoms are just trying to maximise their profit,” said Govil.

According to Central Electricity Regulatory Authority (CERC) order, states have to apply three month in advance to book transmission lines. After this if a margin is left in the transmission lines, it is given on a first come first serve basis.

Cut schedules remain top secret

The 8-10 hour long power cuts everyday are happening arbitrarily, and at unearthly hours. But what has also peeved residents is that the distribution companies (distcoms) do not give them a load shedding schedule in advance.

“We understand there is power shortage and distcoms have to shed power. But the least they can do is to give us a daily schedule. At least, we can plan our day accordingly,” said Pankaj Aggarwal, general secretary of RWAs Joint Front, and a resident of Safdarjung Enclave.

RP Singh, former chairman, Power Grid Corporation said, “You cannot cut power without giving a schedule. The consumers have a right to know when there is going to be no power.”

Distcoms say they give the schedule — with bills three months in advance! (see BSES, NDPL CEOs' interviews)

But Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit says it cannot be done.

“Distcoms can’t. Outages are taking place when power trips. How can they tell in advance? It’s an extraordinary situation. Distcoms are doing fine”, she told Hindustan Times.

“It is the duty of the power regulator to see that consumers don’t get harassed like this,” said KK Govil, retired director (projects), Power Finance Corporation Limited.

Government looks other way

Sources said the distcoms have told the government that their bottomlines were severely hit and with the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) denying their demand for an exorbitant (read inflated) revenue requirement, distcoms are, with the tacit consent of the government, suppressing power load by rampant undeclared shedding and not buying expensive power.

“The combined figure of this shedding between three distcoms is around 650 MW, much of which is going undeclared,” said the source, adding, “The withdrawal from Northern Grid at a frequency of 49.3, when power costs around Rs 7 per unit, is also being avoided as far as possible to save money.”

The last power plant came up in Delhi in 2002 when the 330 MW gas based Pragati power plant was set up.

Delhi does not generate even 50 per cent of the power that it consumes.

It depends on central power stations and the Northern Grid to meet its demand.

“Unless the power generation capacity is augmented, the city is going to experience the same problem every year,” said V Raghuraman, former Energy Advisor, Confederation of Indian Industries.

Local faults are not fixed

Even seven years after privatisation, dated transformers and feeders continue to plague micro-level network.

It takes hours for linemen of distcoms like BSES to even appear at faults sites, let alone repair them.

“A cable fault at Mayur Vihar Phase-II day before yesterday remained unattended for close to 12 hours. The linesman said they were short-staffed,” said Darshan Juneja (50), a local resident.

Delhi’s electrified areas have increased in the past six years, so has the number of consumers, but the distcoms have hardly augmented ground-level manpower to attend to faults.

“And the technicians are equipped with rickety bicycles or paddle-vans, just like it used to be even 50 years ago,” said a power department official.

A large number of their transformers are old and outdated. They trip or worse, catch fire in excessive use. Result: snapping of supply.

“The NDPL has done much better job than BSES in micro-level infrastructure management. But overall, the situation does not speak well of privatization,” said the official.