'Stop blame game, work together for a solution': Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission

Updated: 22 October, 2020 08:36 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

MERC listens to all sides, including private and state power utilities, during hearing on Wednesday

Families emerged out of their homes to escape the heat amid no power. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Families emerged out of their homes to escape the heat amid no power. Pic/Nimesh Dave

Seeking details of the power outage that shut down the city and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region for hours on October 12, the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) has told all stakeholders to stop blaming each other and work together to avoid recurrence.

MERC held a suo motu virtual hearing with the transmission, generation and distribution companies, both government and private, on Wednesday.

According to sources, the representatives presenting their cases passed the buck, but some received a pat on the back from MERC member Mukesh Khullar.

Acknowledging the honesty in a few presentations and the counter points, Khullar told the virtual gathering that blaming each other won't do. He sought to know about Mumbai's islanding system that is designed to save the city from power cuts.

Makeover of islanding system

Tata Power's representative told the forum that the islanding system the company developed needed a complete makeover in view of the changed ratio of Mumbai's embedded power generation and the quantum of electricity brought from outside. But Khullar said the five-year frequency of the islanding system's failure was not acceptable because consumers paid a hefty surcharge for it.

Tata said even if islanding was there in its upgraded format and the national grid collapsed, it would not save Mumbai from outages. "The city's embedded power generation has to reach a certain level [to make islanding effective]," said the company, which is willing to add more capacity to its thermal generation plant at Trombay.

Another private utility, Adani, generates power in Dahanu. Incidentally, the capacity addition at both Trombay and Dahanu plants is being opposed by the green activists.

Tata's representative said the Western Regional Power Committee will have to be consulted to strengthen the plan of the city's islanding system. He also wanted to know whether state-run MahaTransco had a system that trimmed power load when multiple network lines stop working and the load is shifted to working lines. The state representative cautiously said the trimming mechanism seemed to have worked as per the State Load Dispatch Centre's (SLDC) data but actual quantum would have to be found out after studying its data.

The state company pointed out that Tata generation units — Trombay 5 and 8 — started working very late despite continuous instructions from SLDC. It said Adani's transmission network got islanded from Tata and its Dahanu unit (250MWx2) continued to supply critical load of 385MW in Mumbai in islanded mode of operation.

'Make solution possible'

Khullar told the gathering that the MERC was deeply concerned and wanted a pragmatic solution to the city and MMR's power woes. He said some projects were stalled because of environmental issues related to land and creek, but then one has to find a solution and make things sustainable instead of failing like the October 12 incident.

He said nobody can plan for the rarest of rare situations like the October 12 power outage and it was a matter of inquiry to know what led to it. "We will reflect on what you have said and go through your papers and decide the action available. All of you were honest in flagging some problems. There are people who are inquiring about technical details as per their perspective and want to help so that it does not disturb the national grid," the former IAS officer, with vast experience in the power sector, told the gathering. He said another hearing would be held, if needed, before passing the order.

Day this month when the power outage occurred

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First Published: 22 October, 2020 08:35 IST

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