Why more frequent power outage in Kathmandu these days?

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Former Secretary Sharada Prasad Trital, who lives in Saraswatinagar of Chabahil, wrote on his  Facebook timeline on Tuesday last week that the leaders both on the streets and in the government have started chanting for “the people”, but Nepali people are only remembering Kul Man Ghising. “He kept us in the light for four years, and now, we Nepali people are being forced to live in darkness again and again.”

Trital again complained about the same issue on Thursday. Many former government officials like former finance secretaries Rameshore Khanal and Shanta Raj Subedi living in two different places in Kathmandu also have repeatedly tweeted expressing the same concern.

In recent days, everyone has experienced an increase in power outages. They are expressing their dissatisfaction with the Nepal Electricity Authority saying there have been more power outages this year compared to the last four years.

Public concerns

Sujata Bastola of Patan says there have been continuous power outages in her area in the last few days. As per her, they were earlier notified about the one-hour power outage on Saturday. However, the power went off at 2 pm and did not come back until 7 pm.

Banstola tried to inquire about the problem by calling the NEA’s no-light office in Pulchok several times since 5:30 pm on Saturday. However, the phone was busy.

After that, she called Hitendra Dev Shakya, the NEA acting managing director, and asked, “Has the load-shedding started without any announcement, sir?”

Shakya assured her that the problem would be solved immediately. The electricity came on after 7 pm, but it was just “half-line”. She suspects, “Probably, thinking people would make more phone calls after the outage, they always kept busy deliberately.”

Irresponsible NEA

The general public is doubting that the problem of power outage has not increased only due to technical reasons. On Tuesday, the NEA’s acting managing director Shakya admits that there is a need for ‘forced load-shedding’ to meet the demand. He has also tried to escape, arguing that such a problem has taken place in the past as well.

Further, he mentions that nowadays, technicians are afraid to cut the line because of public criticism.

According to him, ongoing road expansion projects, projects to cover electric wires undergrounds, works related to changing transformers and switchgear have also added to the problem.

According to Shakya, consumers have been accepting the occasional power outage as a technical problem due to problems in transformers and lines.

Now, the demand for electricity is high in winter, and the NEA is finding it difficult to meet the demand, says Shakya.

In such a situation, there is no option other than to cut the line for a certain period of time in a certain area to meet the demand. However, Shakya informs he is trying some other options like changing switchgear.

Where did the authority go wrong?

Former NEA officials do not agree with Shakya’s argument that forced load-shedding used to happen in the past as well.

They say the current situation has come due to the ‘lack of skills’ in load management. They are of the view that the false claim for covering the incident of power outage across the valley on Monday evening has confirmed the managerial weakness of the current leadership.

One unit of the Middle Marsyangdi Hydropower Project was shut down on Monday evening due to the lack of water. According to an official of that project, in the past, the project was operated at its full capacity during peak hours in the evening by collecting water throughout the day in winter. On Monday, however, the water of the pond was drained by running the machine from the noon only. The technicians were instructed to continue power generation although they asked at the headquarters what to do in the peak hours in the evening. In the evening, due to high demand in the system, not only the unit of Middle Marsyangdi was shut down, but also the transmission line from India to Kathmandu “tripped”.

According to an NEA official, up to 644 MW of electricity is being imported from India during peak hours and the imports cannot be increased now.

“There have been some attempts to strengthen the system, but they have not been entirely successful. It is better to move forward based on past experience,” he says.

In recent days, there has been a high demand for electricity in the Terai region ( about 50-75 MW difference compared to the same time as the last year). There is more demand in the Terai in summer than in winter. However, the demand has increased as the leakage rate has started rising again since last year.

In the past, the NEA top officials used to reach the load dispatch centres and work in load management. If it was not possible to reach there, demand management measures would be sought by taking hourly updates. However, the current leadership of the NEA has not worked like that.

Instead, the NEA has taken an easy policy of power cuts from the substations to different areas, one after another, if there is a lot of demand in the system. The NEA argues that this will reduce demand and ease supply management.

However, a former deputy managing director of the NEA says the problem will be aggravated as the use of inverters will increase and their load will skyrocket the demand and paralyse the system as it was four years ago.

Much more than just technical problems

Officials of the power distribution centres say that the technical imbalance between demand and supply is not the only reason for the recent power outages. As in the past, the current leadership has failed to create incentives and moral pressure for work at the lower levels of authority.

This year’s transfer of staff was even more controversial than in previous years. Newly-appointed Energy Minister Top Bahadur Rayamajhi has stopped the transfer of high-ranking officials on Friday.

According to some officials, the crisis could be averted by boosting the morale of the employees as the demand in Kathmandu has not increased as compared to the last year due to the slowdown in economic activities thanks to the Covid-19 crisis.

“Employee morale is low as of now; they have not been paid for their overtime works during Dashain and Tihar,” an official says. “It has become difficult for us to deploy staff in the field.”

He says that the problem has been exacerbated by the NEA leadership’s manner of not understanding the problems of the lower-level employees, not paying for the work, and not even encouraging overtime.

 Major works in limbo

According to the authority, most of the works that have been started to ease the power supply in the Kathmandu valley have fallen into limbo now. The construction of the Thankot-Chapagaun-Bhaktapur 132 KV ring main transmission line, which started 20 years ago is still not complete due to the obstruction of locals. According to the NEA, no matter how much electricity is brought to Matatirtha without this line, it cannot be distributed in the city. The NEA has not been able to resolve the dispute for a long time.

 

Source : Online Khabar