Mumbaikars pay MSEDCL Rs 5 crore annually to avoid power outages

Sep 03, 2014, 06:43 IST | Shashank Rao

Despite this, the state supplier could not make up for yesterday's 500-MW shortfall, as transmission networks couldn't take the load, ensuring that large wathes of the city remained enveloped in darkness

Yesterday’s power outage has once again exposed the infrastructural shortcomings of Mumbai, which is touted to be the financial nerve centre of the country.

Also read: Mumbai power cut - Outage leaves senior citizen gasping for breath

WHERE THERE'S A WHEEL, THERE'S A WAY: A scooter’s headlight serves to illuminate a Ganesh idol for the aarti in Sion Koliwada yesterday evening. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
WHERE THERE'S A WHEEL, THERE'S A WAY: A scooter's headlight serves to illuminate a Ganesh idol for the aarti in Sion Koliwada yesterday evening. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

The 500-MW Tata Power unit that tripped yesterday, causing a ripple effect in terms of power outages in most parts of the city, is one of many run by the company in Trombay. The power plant was started in 1956.

Power off
Tata Power has an effective generating capacity of 1,877 MW. Of this, 250 MW is not being produced, as their Unit 8 has been shut since a fire occurred there in January this year. The 500-MW Unit 6 is also offline, as it uses oil, which was proving too expensive. And yesterday, the 500-MW Unit 5 had to be shut because of a technical glitch, which means that almost 67 per cent of TPC’s capacity is currently out of commission.

Also read: Power cut hits Mumbai's financial districts hardest

All powerful, yet 'power'less: A Ganpati mandal in Khetwadi, Girgaum, uses a small diya to illuminate the pandal; (top right) areas that experienced partial load shedding as  a precautionary measure Pic/Emmanual Karbhari
All powerful, yet 'power'less: A Ganpati mandal in Khetwadi, Girgaum, uses a small diya to illuminate the pandal; (top right) areas that experienced partial load shedding as  a precautionary measure Pic/Emmanual Karbhari

As part of a long-term agreement, the BEST undertaking gets 1,000 MW from Tata Power, and the rest is supplied to Reliance Infr-astructure and Tata Power’s own consumers.

Sources in Tata Power said that the turbines of Unit 5 tripped yesterday, leading to power outages in most of Mumbai. The turbines tripped around 9.45 am, which is close to the time when most offices start their day. As a precautionary measure, areas like Nariman Point, Byculla, Lower Parel, Sewri, Mahalaxmi, Worli, Dadar, Sion, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Juhu, Ghatkopar, Marol, Sakinaka, Girgaum and Chembur saw partial load shedding.

The spokesperson for Tata Power said last evening that partial load had been restored through the hydro stations, and rotational load shedding was being carried out. “We will restart Unit 6, which uses oil, for supplying electricity to the BEST. However, that process will take at least 15 hours,” the official said.

As of the evening, restoration work was in progress and was expected to go on throughout the night. The plants were expected to be fully restored, and power supply normalised, by late last night.

Infra woes
Power experts say that, at a time when Mumbai’s power demand is surging and there is little scope of buying cheaper power, the least power companies and the government can do is to ensure that the plants are robust. They also pointed out that Mumbaikars pay Rs 5 crore annually as ‘standby charges’ to the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDCL), which was meant as a foolproof provision against power cuts in Mumbai.

This charge is part of the electricity bill that is sent every month to lakhs of people every day, and the MSEDCL is expected to supply backup electricity in the event of a power outage to ensure 24-hour power supply to Mumbai. In yesterday’s case, however, MSEDCL officials claimed Tata Power’s transmission lines couldn’t take the heavy load. “We supplied 250 MW to Tata Power, but their transmission network was loaded and we couldn’t supply more,” said an MSEDCL official, adding that the power cuts could have been averted if it had been able to do so.

As a result of this, the city was faced with the unappetising prospect of power cuts even on Tuesday night. “Three Tata Power units, generating around 1,250 MW, are shut. We will be forced to carry out load shedding even on Tuesday night,” said a BEST official.

Experts claimed that the main weak link on the transmission network of Tata Power was the Salsette-Chembur network, which gets power into south Mumbai, and couldn’t take the additional load. “There is a need to strengthen the Salsette-Chembur network as soon as possible, if they want power supply from Maharashtra; otherwise load shedding will be inevitable in such cases in the future as well,” said a power expert.

SoBo dilemma
On August 14, the Maharashtra Electricity Regulation Commission (MERC) gave a remarkable decision when it renewed Tata Power’s licence and allowed it to enter the island city. However, the 10 lakh consumers in the area will have to wait longer for cheaper electricity, as Tata Power will have to spend crores in creating its own network. Sources said that it would take at least two years for Tata Power to lay cables throughout the island city, duplicating BEST’s network.

The company cannot use BEST’s cables. “There is no provision made in the MERC order for Tata Power to use BEST’s cables,” said a BEST official on condition of anonymity.

At present, under a special provision, Tata Power is using Reliance Infrastructure’s network, apart from its own cables, to supply electricity in the eastern and western suburbs. Due to this, all consumers shifting to Tata Power are paying a certain surcharge for using the Rinfra network.

Tata Power: “Today, at 09:45 hours, the Mumbai power supply was affected due to tripping of Unit #5 of 500 MW capacity at Trombay Power Station due to a technical hurdle. Unit #5 restoration work is under progress. Partial load has been restored through the hydro stations, and the company has activated the initialisation activities of its cold standby Unit #6, which runs on oil and was kept on cold with the consent of the procurers. While the power is available in neighbouring areas of Maharashtra, due to overloading of state transmission network, it has not been made possible to import power for Mumbai by these distribution companies. The distribution companies are now doing a rotational load shedding in their respective areas of about 200-300 MW. Units are expected to be fully restored, and power is expected to be normalised fully by late night today.”

>> Reliance Infrastructure: “Tata Power’s 500-MW Unit 5 tripped and due to constraints on the transmission system, replacement power could not be brought into Mumbai. In view of this, there was short availability of power in Mumbai, resulting in load shedding of consumers of TPC, BEST and RInfra. This was done as per directions from the State Load Despatch Centre.”

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