Five months on,BEST fails to detect cause of substation fire

Nearly five months after a fire at the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport undertaking’s Backbay substation caused South Mumbai’s worst power outage in a decade,officials are yet to ascertain the exact cause of the incident.

Written by MANASI PHADKE | Mumbai | Published: February 27, 2012 3:02 am

Nearly five months after a fire at the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport (BEST) undertaking’s Backbay substation caused South Mumbai’s worst power outage in a decade,officials are yet to ascertain the exact cause of the incident. Meanwhile,the undertaking has paid Japanese experts,who have visited twice to study the cause,Rs 22 lakh till now.

On BEST’s request,the power department had formed a committee to probe the incident,identify the cause of the fire and ascertain whether the public utility had been at fault or if Tata Power Company,which supplies the electricity that is then distributed by BEST to consumers,was to blame.

“It took nearly two months to just form the committee. Hopefully,within a month we should get the report,” said General Manager O P Gupta.

Last October,a cable at BEST’s Backbay substation — that takes electricity from Tata Power Company and provides it to BEST’s receiving station — caught fire,leading to a blackout in areas such as Cuffe Parade,Marine Drive,Navy Nagar,Colaba,Nariman Point,parts of Hutatma Chowk and Ballard Pier. Some areas went without electricity for more than 30 hours.

“At our level,we have started the work of restoring equipment but we must know the exact cause soon otherwise we won’t be able to take the appropriate preventive measures,” said Sunil Ganacharya,a BEST committee member.

In a preliminary inquiry,BEST had concluded that overheating at the substation had led to a fault in equipment causing the outage. “It could either be because of excess electric supply,which would be a fault at Tata Power’s end,or because of failure of some equipment. Without knowing whom the fault lies with we have pumped in some money towards the restoration process,” Ganacharya said. “As it is,BEST is running huge losses.”

The cash-strapped BEST has to spend Rs 2.5 crore on the restoration of the equipment at the Backbay substation.

Meanwhile,the BEST has given the mandate to Nissan Electric Company Ltd to determine the extent of the damage,guarantee safety of the systems and take steps to ensure the equipment’s performance during its remaining lifespan of about 10-12 years.

Officials from the Japanese company visited India two times since the incident to look into the matter and have billed BEST nearly Rs 22 lakh. They are expected to pay two more visits. BEST had purchased the gas-insulated switchgears at the Backbay substation from Nissan for Rs 18.65 crore and commissioned the equipment in 1998.

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