Today’s massive power failure in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) has yet again exposed major lacunas in the power distribution and transmission system. Several committees have gone into power failures in the past and made a slew of recommendations, but most of them remained on the paper due to procedural, regulatory and financial issues. Today’s failure has exposed claims by successive governments and power utilities on strengthening the transmission and distribution system, but the reality on the ground is different.
The Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) in 2010 had said that since the problem happened because of transmission faults, consumers were not entitled to compensation. It had subsequently set up a committee after MERC appointed a two-member committee when power supply disrupted in some Mumbai suburbs on November 18 and November 21, 2010, to review protection and relay settings and also to review and redesign the system to ensure effective islanding of Mumbai. The committee had recommended further strengthening of the islanding system and the upgradation of transmission for evacuation of more power amidst the rising demand.
After major grid failures took place on July 30 and July 31, 2012, a three-member committee had suggested that better coordinated planning of outages of state and regional networks, specifically under the depleted condition of the inter-regional power transfer corridors. The committee had also recommended that a coordinated outage planning of transmission elements needs to be carried out so that the depletion of transmission system due to simultaneous outages of several transmission elements could be avoided.
Further, in order to avoid frequent outages/opening of lines under over voltages and also provide voltage support under steady state and dynamic conditions, the installation of adequate static and dynamic reactive power compensators should be planned. The committee had emphasised the need to review transmission planning criteria in view of the growing complexity of the system and to strengthen system study groups in various power sector organisations.
Ironically, the execution of the 400 kV Vikhroli transmission project continues to be on paper. MERC had repeatedly observed that the project was necessary for strengthening the transmission of power in Mumbai, considering the rise of demand by 100to 125 mw annually. Implementation would facilitate 800 to 1000 mw of power import from the grid at the 400 kV level.