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‘Record’ demand led to power outage

- Officials claim no dearth in supply, point out need to upgrade system

Calcutta, June 21: A “record” demand in electricity in the two-month swelter spell resulted in faults and technical glitches in several districts of south Bengal though there was no dearth in supply, officials in the state power board have claimed.

The West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) not only arranged for the daily demand of 4,300MW in the districts, over 100MW higher than projections, it also exported 500-750MW to CESC for its 26 lakh consumers in Calcutta and Howrah.

The high demand in the heat spell since April, during which there was hardly any rain and several parts of the state recorded some of the highest temperatures, overworked the system which led to the faults and glitches, an official of the state power department said.

“The high demand, which has stayed largely consistent for most of the season, has overworked the distribution system. This has caused power outage — lasting for hours in various pockets — from faults and technical snags. But there has been no deficit in supply,” the official said.

WBSEDCL got around 2,800MW from the state-run generation utility, 800MW from its own pump-storage plant in Purulia, over 1,000MW from NTPC (Farakka), 100MW from Durgapur Projects Limited and the remainder through power-purchase agreements with other eastern states.

Sources at the power utility said the nature of the demand has been “unusual” this summer, with most domestic consumers keeping on fans — and air-conditioners in some urban hubs — through the day.

“Demand in summers usually peaks in the evening. But this time, the hike has come between 1pm and 5pm on most days,” a source said.

Besides, the WBSEDCL has added 17 lakh rural consumers and its base now stands at 1.01 crore.

One relief for the WBSEDCL, sources said, was that the addition in its consumer base was mostly in the rural parts. This prevented the surge from going over 100MW.

“Had there been a growth in industrial power demand, there would have been power cuts,” a source said.

“We have tried and succeeded in preventing load-shedding in our area during a summer that has broken all records in terms of demand. But if, in the course of that, there has been a trip in a high-tension wire here or a fuse has blown in a transformer there, they have been unavoidable and unfortunate,” said another source in the utility.

While state power department officials agreed with WBSEDCL on the utility’s difficulties in coping with the unexpected demand, they did point out the need for upgrades and maintenance for ensuring a more seamless supply during such crises.

“At the end of the last fiscal year, the projected peak was around 4,200MW. The kind of oppressive weather we’ve had this summer is something no power utility could have foreseen. However, we will check on the need for upgrades and better upkeep in WBSEDCL’s distribution network so that outage because of glitches could be minimised,” an official said.