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Mumbai blackout: Tata Power, BEST play blame game

A day after many parts of Mumbai experienced one of the worst outages in the recent history, Tata Power Company and state-run electricity distribution company BEST on Wednesday traded charges against each other.

Several parts of the metropolis were without power for hours together yesterday, after one of the electricity generating units (Unit 5) at Tata Power's Trombay plant tripped at around 9.45 am yesterday, forcing the company to switch off several feeders.

Tata Power claimed if BEST had procured power from the oil and gas-fired 500-MW Unit 6, the distribution company would have been able to meet the shortage after the tripping and the city would have not faced load-shedding.

Ganpati Mandal
A Ganpati mandal in Sion Koliwada performed puja with the help of a Scooty headlight on Tuesday after several parts of south and central Mumbai faced massive power outages. PIC/PRADEEP DHIVAR
 

Speaking to reporters, BEST General Manager Om Prakash Gupta said, "We do not know whether there was actual tripping or was it a forced one. Tata Power has got the licence to distribute electricity in the city limits where we currently have a monopoly. It is their responsibility to supply power to us since we do not generate electricity, which they failed to do".

Yesterday, BEST was more critical of Tata Power. "The lackadaisical attitude of Tata Power Company along with ulterior motives of poaching our consumers could be the scheme behind the current fiasco," BEST had said in a statement issued last night.

According to Tata Power, had it been running the gas-fired Unit 6 of 500 mw, then it could have met the suply shortage caused by tripping of Unit 5 which is coal-fired.

"We had activated initialisation activities of the 500-MW Unit 6, which we have kept on cold stand-by, with BEST's consent. The state-run discom told us that they would not buy power from Unit-6 since it is costly and so we have not been generating power.

"If the plant was running, the city would not have faced load-shedding after the other unit tripped," Tata Power Company's (TPC) MD Anil Sardana told reporters here today.

He also said TPC procured power from its hydroelectric plant as well as activated initialisation of its cold stand-by Unit 6, which runs on oil and gas, to meet the shortfall.

However, BEST has claimed that even after the failure of Unit 5, it could have met the city's load demand of 723 MW through bilateral purchase and a standby agreement.

"Due to the failure of the unit, there was non- availability of 225 MW of power from the TPC. We need not to buy power from Unit 6, since it is very costly. We will have to pay Rs 13 per unit to buy power from Unit-6 and we don't want to pass that burden onto our customers.

"So we have asked TPC to not to produce power from that unit," BEST's Gupta said today.

Meanwhile, the state government has ordered a probe into the outage. towards this the government has set up a panel under the state energy secretary Ajoy Mehta. The committee has to submit its report to the government in six weeks.

Gupta said TPC's claim about cold standby is totally false and misleading, since the power to operate the grid elements including Unit 6 is not strictly under BEST's purview, since power generated from this unit is not a part of the power purchase agreement that which BEST signed with TPC.

Tata Power had proposed conversion of Unit 6 to a coal- fired plant, which it has not been able to do because of opposition from locals, Sardana said. "We have received environmental clearance for the conversion, but what is needed is political will to do so. They claim that coal-based generation will lead to pollution, but carbon emission from oil is much higher than coal.

"Oil is costly and the government's stand on gas for power plants makes it difficult for us to generate electricity through these fuels. So we want to convert it to a coal-fired plant," Sardana said.

The company would have to invest around Rs 800 crore for the conversion which would take around 18 months, Sardana said, adding that there is a need to enhance the transmission system, which failed to draw additional 300 MW from external sources that resulted in load shedding.

BEST, however, said it is Tata Power's responsibility to ensure generation and transmission. "TPC has not provided sufficient redundancy for generation and transmission which led to the present situation of forced load-shedding," Gupta said. 

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