City Bureau

There will be no "load-shedding this summer"; Rs.1000-crore programme to improve transmission, distribution under way

CHENNAI: The spurt in real estate and the booming automobile and information technology sector in the city has led to a surge in the demand for electricity.

"Against the usual 10 per cent increase, we are seeing 16 per cent rise in the last two to three years," says S. Kathiresan, Member (Accounts) of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB). But how prepared are the authorities to tackle the demand this summer?

Though the situation is fairly comfortable in most parts of the city, the TNEB has a challenging task ahead in the suburbs, if feedback from residents is any indicator. Ageing equipment, increasing use of power-intensive consumer goods and inadequate sub-stations pose serious problems for power supply in the southern suburbs.

In the past week alone, there were three major power disruptions in Selaiyur, Chitlapakkam, Tambaram, Chromepet, Sembakkam, Gowriwakkam and Chromepet.

R. Chandrasekar, a resident of Bashyam Nagar, Chromepet, says power fluctuations and disruption were frequent problems in the area. When residents call the TNEB, all they get is the standard reply that the Board was working to restore power supply. TNEB engineers say the disruption was due to a major technical snag in a sub-station.

With scores of industrial units and multi-storeyed flats coming up rapidly, there is a severe strain on TNEB in catering to the newer areas. Moreover, the availability of fast moving consumer goods at throwaway prices has increased the demand for power, they say. Senior engineers admit that upgradation of cables and other equipment in their installations is an urgent necessity. But all the same, they urge consumers with single-phase connections to refrain from using power-intensive household appliances. They also suggest that consumers with three-phase connections install "automatic phase changeovers" for safety.

Residents in Jamalia, near Perambur, complain of frequent power cuts and voltage fluctuation in the area. They point to the underground cables, which they say were laid about 30 years ago.

Power failures are common in parts of Kolathur and Thiru.Vi.Ka Nagar, according to a resident. For households of southern suburbs such as Nanganallur, Keelkatalai and Moovarasampet voltage fluctuation is a major problem.

TNEB confident

The TNEB says it is equipped to handle the demand. "We are confident that there will be no load shedding this summer," said Mr. Kathiresan. The Board is tackling the city power situation on two fronts - generation and transmission-distribution (T&D). Annually, 256 megawatts is added. With regard to improvement of the T&D network, a Rs.1,000-crore programme is under way. In the EB's scheme of things, "Chennai" extends from Ponneri in the north to Chengalpattu in the south and to Avadi in the west. Siruseri and Sriperumbudur too form part of Chennai. Power managers have identified Old Mamallapuram Road, Oragadam and surrounding areas as high growth areas, in view of the industrial growth. Accordingly, 400 Kilo Volt (KV) substations have been planned in Sholinganallur and Sunguvar Chatram. The Power Grid Corporation of India, the Central utility, is putting up one such substation in Kalivandapattu, about 7 km east of Guduvancheri. Eight months ago, Electricity Minister Arcot N. Veerasamy commissioned a substation in Alamathi, in the northwestern fringes of the city.

Five 230 KV substations, each costing around Rs. 50 crore, will be established soon. While two of them are going to be in Sriperumbudur, Oragadam, Basin Bridge and the Mahindra Industrial Park near Chengalpattu will get one each. In fact, the three substations in Sriperumbudur and Oragadam will be fed by the Sunguvar Chatram substation. Two more, one each in Guindy and another for Knowledge Industries Township near Sholinganallur, are in the pipeline.

Besides the establishment of several 110 KV substations, upgradation of lower capacity substations is underway.

The Ambattur Industrial Estate will soon have one 110 KV substation and the capacity of the existing stations in Gummidipoondi and Pallavaram is being raised to 110 KV. The EB is forming a ring connecting 230-kv substations in different parts of the city for reliable power flow from the north of the city to the south and vice versa.

As for replacing overhead lines with underground cables, about two-thirds of the city has been covered.

(With inputs from T. Ramakrishnan, K. Manikandan, R. Srikanth, T. Madhavan and K. Lakshmi.)