The one-hour load-shedding introduced by the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) in the city from April 21 was waiting to happen for several months.
People from various parts of the State have been complaining about the special treatment meted out by TANGEDCO to the city which is exempted from load-shedding, while other parts of the State had to face scheduled and unscheduled load-shedding.
C.P. Singh, Chairman, TANGEDCO, said that in the backdrop of the State facing shortage of electricity, TANGEDCO was forced to extend load shedding in the city to overcome the power crisis.
He said that the demand for electricity for the entire State was of the order of 11,000 to 12,000 megawatt while the supply position was around 9,000 MW, which included 2,000 MW of power purchased daily from the market at a high rate. Moreover, the demand for electricity in the city was growing by 15 per cent year after year due to heavy construction activity and air-conditioners becoming quite affordable for consumers.
Apart from the one-hour load-shedding, residents point out that ‘power holiday' was being implemented by TANGEDCO in the name of maintenance work.
T. Sadagopan, vice-president, Tamil Nadu Progressive Consumer Centre, Pattabhiram, said he was sceptical about the nature of the “maintenance work” being carried out, when getting the periodic oil change done in transformers is a challenging task in some areas.
Observing that the maintenance work was being carried out on a rotational basis, Mr. Singh said the distribution network in the city was old and had been neglected for several years and this necessitated regular upkeep to prevent any major systemic failure due to power overloading.
Giving details of the various development works undertaken by TANGEDCO, Mr. Singh said that six new substations of varying capacities have been established in the city this financial year at a cost of Rs. 62 crore. This fiscal, it has been proposed to establish new substations of 33/11 kilo volt at Rajakilpakkam, Kovilambakkam and Mogappair East at a cost of Rs. 129.47 crore. Also TANGEDCO has taken steps to install new power transformers, enhance distribution transformers and lay new high tension and low tension cables. Mr. Singh said that even after establishing new substations the fast pace of housing development offsets the development works.
Residents in the city have come to terms with the poor electricity supply position during the past few years and have opted for inverters to avoid power shutdown and load-shedding.
Even as residents in the suburbs located adjoining the city had to put up with the extension of load-shedding from two hours to three hours, they are more aggrieved by the unannounced power cuts and low-voltage problems.
Several suburbs located along the perimeter of the city including Tiruvottiyur, Nemilichery, Urapakkam, Thiruninravur and Adambakkam are facing low-voltage fluctuations during night time.
Dwarakanath, a resident of Krishnapuram, Thiruninravur, said that the residents not only faced regular load-shedding from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. but during nights, frequent power disruptions occur.
He said that at times, if power supply got disrupted after 11 p.m., the local authorities did not respond properly and power supply gets restored only the next morning. He wanted this issue to be addressed by the senior authorities of TANGEDCO.
The spate of power shutdowns has irked residents so much that the clamour for viable exploration of alternative energy sources has increased.
However, experts such as Ajit Kumar Kolar, founder and convener of the IIT-Madras Energy Forum, say that the short-term prospects look bleak. “Solar power is currently extremely expensive for domestic use. Even in the case of commercial plants, solar power generation costs about Rs.21 per unit, compared to Rs.4 in case of coal.”
Even in residential complexes where solar photovoltaic panels have been installed, the power generated can be used only for extremely selective purposes such as heating.
“A small-scale solar plant, such as the 10KW system in place at IIT-M, has an electrical efficiency of 15 per cent. Unless this inches up towards the 35 per cent efficiency that coal-based power plants offer, solar adoption will be minimal,” Mr. Kolar said.
The Centre for Sustainable Energy at IIT-M has been experimenting with solar panels on the roof of cycle stands and micro wind turbines that can be used by households. Despite the high cost, Mr. Kolar said that big apartment complexes must start thinking about an integrated energy conversion system with an array of rooftop photovoltaic cells and micro wind turbines on the rim.
“We are in a precarious situation in terms of electricity generation. The per capita energy consumption in India is only 800 units per person. This is 1/4th of the global average. Consumption is set to rise dramatically over the next few years. We will continue to be in this cycle of electricity shortage for a very, very long time,” he added.