Bengaluru is one of the technology hubs of the world, despite the best efforts, one might say, of Bescom. Power cuts remain a common feature in city life, transformers explode in rain, sunshine and the wind. In good weather, they overheat and explode anyway. Power lines are cut when passing birds stop to sit on them, or because they came in contact with a tree. Bescom has a multitude of excuses to offer but power cuts, in this age of technology, are a disgrace. File petitions and make Bescom answerable, says energy expert M.G. Prabhakar. If officials are penalised for systemic failures, they will be forced to rectify the problem, reports Nikhil Gangadhar.
Frequent power cuts are back to haunt the city and residents are furious with Bescom’s methods of handling the issue. The agency has simply said there aren’t too many power cuts and that disruptions only happen due to unexpected interruptions or maintenance work. Bescom says the public is informed “well in advance about the disruption.”
On the other hand, Bescom claims to have surplus power. Disruptions are caused by ineffective maintenance and the rain, which leads to transformer failures or feeder faults.
A senior officer from Bescom said, “We are in the process of shifting transformers and power cuts can be expected during this time, until the work is complete.” Trees are also being pruned, for branches coming in contact with power lines is another common issue. “We disconnect power during this process too,” the official added. “These are the reasons for power disruption – there is no load shedding or unnecessary power cuts happening across the city.”
The officer also said, “We have been working on the documentation of laying underground cables, which will be carried out in a phased manner. Work will start soon. Once the cables go underground, we can avoid disruptions in power supply.” However, feeder faults or technical glitches at the sub stations cannot be predicted and do result in power failures. “The supply can be restored only after the issue has been rectified.”
Over the last few months, Bescom has been involved in shifting transformers from ground level and placing them at a certain height, “to ensure people don’t come in contact with them and become electrocuted,” the officer explained. “The shifting work is also nearly complete, barring a few spots where space is a constraint.”
Residents, however, claim transformer failures are the prime reason for power disruption. Can these transformers be tracked periodically? Another Bescom official says that Distribution Transformer Lifecycle Management Software had been implemented on a pilot basis, but that they don’t know how effective these are in tracking the efficiency of the transformers. “If the software could update us before an issue arises, we can avoid transformer failures unless there is an unpredictable occurrence like a tree crashing into it, or a vehicle ramming into it.”
There is also no way, he adds, to avoid transformer failure in the rain, other than to “cover them up and ensure that they are not exposed too much sunlight or rain.”
According to a source from Bescom, more than 4,500 transformers have been shifted off the proads and pavements. The transformers are placed in such a way that they do not come in contact with either animals or humans, and are kept away from extreme weather conditions. However, the transformers tend to overheat, another issue that cannot be resolved without reworking the entire distribution system.
‘Lacks expertise, Bescom needs a total revamp’
Transformers that can’t withstand heat, rain, wind or animals passing through the vicinity and power lines cut to ribbons by tree branches, at a time when most parts of the world don’t even know what a power cut means, it seems Bescom needs to modernise itself. Power disruptions are not acceptable anywhere but they are pathetic to see in a technology-driven city like Bengaluru, which is a hotbed for businesses.
Residents place blame squarely on the government, which they say, has not made the effort to revamp Bescom, upgrade its technology and decrease power disruptions. While several European and Western countries have adopted smart systems to regulate power supply, no such effort is being made here.
Shashikala, a resident of Banashankari, who returned from Singapore recently, says “Western countries laid underground cables years ago, why is Bescom waiting? In Singapore, transformers and other sources of power supply are operated through smart systems and are not affected even by heavy rainfall or strong winds. It’s time the state government and Bescom worked together to ensure that new and innovative modern methods are adopted to avoid such issues. There have been power cuts every day since I returned – it’s unbelievable.”
Ganesh Bhat, a retired government employee who now lives in Hennur, joked that his day isn’t complete if he doesn’t witness at least two power cuts. “We really don’t know the reason for these – sometimes, they last for hours, other times, no more than a few minutes.” He calls this a “disturbing trend in a city like Bengaluru, where we talk of growing in leaps and bounds but we remain woefully lacking in terms of basic amenities and requirements.” The root of the problem needs to be identified and resolved, he says. “Right now, we don’t know where the problem lies – how can we solve it?”
Bescom, says Mr Bhat, may lack expertise and know-how on electricity and power supply. “This is obvious, considering the number of power cuts we face every day. The department needs to be revamped as a whole and we need more qualified people to run it. Only then can we see progress. Until then,” he quips, “We will continue to live in darkness.”...