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Mumbai trips, lines too weak to import power

"The coal crisis is beginning to literally show its dark side,” said Anand Mahindra.

“Dark office in Mumbai. Lights out in the whole area. The coal crisis is beginning to literally show its dark side. A threat to the India story,” said Anand Mahindra. (Reuters) “Dark office in Mumbai. Lights out in the whole area. The coal crisis is beginning to literally show its dark side. A threat to the India story,” said Anand Mahindra. (Reuters)

Most of the island city of Mumbai and several suburbs, including major commercial areas, were left without power for the entire day on Tuesday after a unit of Tata Power, generating 500 megawatts, tripped due to a technical snag in the morning. Distribution companies were compelled to resort to load shedding and while the affected unit, Unit 5 at the Trombay Power Station, was expected to be up and running by 2.30 pm, restoration work was still under way at 5 pm.

“Dark office in Mumbai. Lights out in the whole area. The coal crisis is beginning to literally show its dark side. A threat to the India story,” Anand Mahindra, chairman and managing director, Mahindra Group, tweeted. M&M has corporate offices in the Worli and Colaba areas of the city.

While no crisis of coal triggered Tuesday’s blackout in Mumbai, several parts of the country are reeling under power cuts after an estimated 14,000MW of generation capacity was pulled out due to a severe shortage of coal in northern, western and northeastern regions.

Last Friday, the Central Electricity Authority(CEA) had cautioned that 40,000MW of thermal generation capacity had turned “super-critical”, implying the plants could shut down unless coal supplies were restored immediately; about of the half of the capacity had less than eight days’ coal stocks.

Earlier on Thursday, the western and northern grids had sent out alerts warning regional distribution companies from overdrawing from the grid. The Western Regional Load Despatch Centre (WRLDC) issued a warning late on August 27 saying the regional grid was “severely affected”. The loss of generation capacity was estimated at 5,843 MW, mainly attributable to coal scarcity.

Experts claimed power could have been purchased from the open market but there was the fear a weak transmission infrastructure might not be able to handle the load. Tata Power said in a statement that while the power was 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 affected areas in Mumbai are served by state-owned Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking (BEST), Reliance Infrastructure and Tata Power. A BEST official said it draws about 250 MW from Tata Power’s Unit 5 and had resorted to 140-150 MW of load shedding to deal with the demand.

According to the company’s investor presentation for July 2014, the Tata Power has a generation capacity of 1,580 MW at the Trombay Power Station, of which about 1250 MW is offline for various reasons. Unit 8, with a capacity of 250 MW, has been closed since January, owing to a fire in the unit. Unit 6, which is fuelled by oil, was offline with the consent of procurers, according to Tata Power. “Unit number 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 number 6,” the company said in a statement.

The company expects units to be fully restored and power is expected to be normalised fully by late night on Tuesday. At the time of going to press, the BEST official said Unit 5 should be operational by 6.30 pm and Unit 6, with a capacity of 500 MW, would be online by 9 pm. “So even if Unit 5 remains down, Unit 6 can cover up for the loss,” the official said.

The commercial and business districts of Mumbai were affected by the outage with Dadar, Mahim, Dharavi, Sion, Prabhadevi, Parel, Sewree, Byculla, Chinchpokli, Girgaon, Mumbai Central and part of Hutatma Chowk, Ballard Pier, Nariman Point and the area around Metro Cinema affected. Pockets of Nariman Point and Colaba also did not have power. The Bandra Kurla Complex, Chembur, Tilak Nagar, Santacruz, Ghatkopar, Sakinaka, Vikhroli and Juhu were affected. In business districts, corporate offices with insufficient backups had a slow day at work. Some had to climb many flights of stairs with elevators not functional, small businesses and restaurants had to shut business, and ATMs stopped working. A statement issued by Tata Power at 5 pm said, “Partial load has been restored through the hydro stations and the company has activated the initialisation activities of its cold standby Unit number 6… The distribution companies are now doing a rotational load shedding in their respective areas of about 200-300 megawatt. Units are expected to be fully restored and power is expected to be normalised fully by late night on Tuesday.”

While Tata Power does not provide electricity to Reliance Energy, which is in charge of supplying power to the suburbs, areas under the company’s jurisdiction also had to face a power outage due to overall constraints on the city’s transmission network.

“Tata Power 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 Tata Power, BEST and Reliance. This was done in accordance with the directions from the State Load Dispatch Centre,” a Reliance Energy spokesperson said.

fe Bureau | The Financial Express

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