12-hour unscheduled load shedding over the past few days

Power supply situation appears to be turning from bad to worse with domestic consumers experiencing up to 12 hours of unscheduled load shedding in the Tiruchi region over the past few days.

The Vinayagar Chathurthi festivities on Wednesday was marred by heavy load shedding with consumers in several parts of the city and elsewhere in Tiruchi and other central districts experiencing six hours of continuous power outage during the day, apart from the frequent spells of one-hour load shedding during the evening and night. Residents in Thennur and Srirangam in the city experienced load shedding from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the day.

As the recent spells of rainfall have not brought in any relief from the hot weather, residents have been put to tremendous hardship. With quarterly or first semester exams underway in the schools, students have also been hit hard.

Officials of Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation attribute the problem to a dip in wind power generation. Wind power had helped to reduce the load shedding to three hours for domestic consumers in the State (other than Chennai) in June.

But what has irked consumers most is the failure of the TANGEDCO to come out with a schedule for load shedding. “At least they could come clean on the duration of the load shedding and announce a schedule (as was the practice some months back), so that we can be prepared. The erratic supply catches us completely unawares and we are not able to schedule our work or household chores,” says G.Chithra, a housewife who also runs a tailoring shop.

Inverters that many middle class families have purchased at the height of the power crisis a couple of years back have not been of much help. “The batteries hardly get enough power for being recharged and they fail during the frequent power cuts. Inverter batteries required at least 12 hours of continuous supply to get recharged,” says R.Gopalakrishnan, a resident. Several residents also complain that the batteries of inverters, purchased about two to three years back, have gone weak and they were being forced to invest in new batteries, which cost above Rs.10,000.

Officials say that they too would like to standardise a schedule for load shedding rather than face the wrath of consumers on account of unscheduled power cuts. But a senior officer of the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation pleaded inability to notify a schedule owing to the unpredictability of wind power generation and the absence of any “buffer” source.

“We are unable to commit anything as of now as wind power generation has been unpredictable. Wind power generation drops to even 200 MW from an average of 3,000 MW,” he said.

But not everybody is willing to buy the argument of TANGEDCO. “They cannot escape by just attributing the problem to the drop in wind power generation. They should treat all consumers equally and the burden of power shortage should be equally shared by all consumers in the State,” M.Sekaran, president, Federation of Consumer and Service Organisations, observes.

Tough days seem to be ahead for consumers as wind power generation is normally expected to last only till September-end. Officials are pinning their hopes on the onset of monsoon, which could bring down the demand considerably.