Happened to receive this Facebook update from the MD of Bescom explaining why Bangalore is suffering so many outages. The MD of Bescom can be found on Facebook here and Bescom also has a Facebook page updating on outages.
But what is so illuminating about this Letter is how deeply broken the Last Mile of Service Delivery is even in the most Technologically Savvy of Cities in India and what is worse there is no Single Point of Local Accountability to fix it. It is also illuminating of the thoughtless manner in which the Electricity Regulation has happened by breaking up erstwhile PSU Monopoly only to be replaced by more PSU Monopolies.
FB Note by Bescom MD on Frequent Outages in South Bangalore
Power outage in south Bangalore this evening, due to technical fault at Somanahalli power receiving station, for the nth time! I don’t know what to say. While i sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to the citizens, i also want to tell them why this happens and what can be done to improve the situation.
Do you know that, Bangalore is the ONLY metro in India, where the power supply for the city in the hands of three agencies, in series, one after another? It means, the electricity flows thru 3 different companies before reaching your home. If any one of them fails, you don’t get the supply!
BESCOM is a distribution company. It means that, BESCOM receives power from another entity, and sells it in retail thru its vast network of distribution lines. BESCOM receives the electricity from the numerous sub-stations in the city, owned and maintained by another agency called as KPTCL (Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Ltd). KPTCL evacuates the power from the yard of the generators like RTPS (Raichur Thermal Power Station), transmits the electricity over the high-tension wires for 100s of KMs, till the electricity reaches the sub-stations all over.
From the substation, BESCOM picks up the electricity thru its 11KV cables, runs it into the small transformers you see on every street corner, reduce the voltage to 440 volts, and sends it to your home.
As you can see it, there are three agencies; the generator, the transmitter and the distributor. Of these three, the most important is the transmitter, as its failure will mean no electricity at all. If one generator like RTPS fails, we can take electricity from other source. But, if the KPTCL lines fails?!
This is what exactly happens many a times! There is not much of problem in transmitting the electricity from the RTPS to the outskirts of the city. But, the problem starts in the huge receiving stations. There are 3 such receiving stations for our Bangalore. One in North, peenya; one is East, Hoodi; one in South; Somanahalli.
All these three are, ahem, in bad shape. They are overloaded, and increase in the consumption makes them trip. Their capacity is not augmented at the pace the city grew. One reason could be that, nobody wants to take a risk of creating more capacity. One transformer in such station costs 5 crores! What if one buys a transformer and the growth is not commensurate? There will be audit objection on the officer who took that risk. So, transformers are bought NOT anticipating the demand, but after the demand outstriped the capacity! The interregnum is the period of load restrictions (shedding). Thus, we have load-restrictions (brownouts) inspite of having sufficient power at hand.
Same is the case with the cables (Underground) laid by KPTCL across the city. While the cables were laid 20 years back, such a sharp growth was not expected. Now, due to very high growth, we have to lay additional cables. It’s not easy! If BBMP gives road cutting permission, Traffic police will not!:) If both give, somebody else will not! Can you believe that the Bangalore university is not giving KPTCL permission to lay the cable thru its campus, for last 15 months?! Thus, we have reasons and reasons and reasons!
Anyway, the point is, should there be one single agency (generation, transmission and distribution) which should be accountable for power supply to the city like Bangalore? Will there be pressure on the agency to perform, as it will be directly accountable to the public? Will it innovate ways and means to surmount the problems? Can we discuss this important issue?
NB: Just now i got the information that the fault found in the Somanahalli station is rectified and supply is normalised to all areas of the city!