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IT capital Bangalore to pare power cuts

Priya Ganapati in Bangalore | June 23, 2003

Amidst growing political opposition and a strong local media campaign against the spate of extended power cuts imposed in Karnataka, the state has announced that it will significantly tone down its 'load shedding' schedule.

Recently, a two-hour daily power cut was recently imposed on Bangalore, while other urban areas in the State had to suffer a five-hour blackout.

Rural areas in the state were forced to undergo 17-hours without any power supply.

However, load shedding in Bangalore, the hub for most Indian IT companies, was abruptly lifted on June 17 and two days later, the state's energy minister announced that nine-hours of supply would be restored to rural Karnataka.

"Instead of just 7 hours of power supply earlier, villages will now get 13 hours. Of this 9 hours will be three-phase supply that can be used for all industrial purposes and 3 hours will be single phase supply," elaborates K N Shrivastava, managing director, KPCTL.

At the end of the summer this year, Karnataka is reeling under a barrage of power blackouts.

A drought last year and slow monsoon now along with unexpected breakdowns in key power supply stations has led to a heavy shortfall in the power supply required for the state.

"Four power generation sources had to shut down due to technical problems. The low level of water in the reservoirs also meant that we could not generate hydel power and the monsoons are yet to kick in. Till the monsoons arrive in full force we have to conserve the available power supply," says K R Lakshmikantha, General Manager (Technical), Karnataka Power Corporation Transmission Limited, the power transmission arm of the state's electricity board.

The state faces a huge demand-supply gap, with demand estimated at 105 million units a day while supply stands at 80 million units a day. Of that, Bangalore alone consumes nearly 40 million units every day.

Yet the city, known as India's Silicon Valley, gets about 5 million units less than what it needs.

According to Gartner ratings per state on power reliability against a scale of 10 (highest) - 1 (lowest), Karnataka scores a 6, which may seem rather stable. But in reality, over 60 per cent of corporates in Bangalore alone, are facing power disruption daily.

The study revealed that just 2 per cent of the companies from Bangalore fall in the 'never' faced power disruptions category as compared to Chennai's 4.1 per cent, Delhi's 4 per cent, Hyderabad's 21.5 per cent and Mumbai's 18.4 per cent.

"Karnataka is the IT capital of India and a showcase for our country to the western world in terms of the Indian engineering and IT capabilities. FDI often gets decided in terms of Bangalore as the destination rather than even India. These establishments and the industry in Karnataka continuous power. But the enormous power shortage in the national grid and the galloping demand in the state has meant a serious shortfall in the power situation in Karnataka," says Anand Iyer, country general manager, American Power Conversion, India & South Asia, which provides end to end power management solutions.

Karnataka, specifically Bangalore, has been credited with being the source for nearly 50 per cent of India's software exports.

For IT companies that have chosen to make Bangalore their home, clearly, the frequent disruptions can have serious consequences, in terms of possible revenue loss, productivity loss and customer loss-- in case of back office processes which demand 24 x 7 operations.

Local industry executives admit that several large manufacturing investments into India in the IT sector did not take off owing to the perception of poor power in the country, though there are options available.

And those who are in business here have ensured that they have enough redundancy and back ups built to cushion them from the erratic power supply.

ICICI OneSource, a Bangalore-based Business Process Outsourcing services provider, has a four-layered power back-up system, which ensures power outages from the local provider do not impact its operations.

Though the primary power source is the electricity from the city power supply, it is backed up by Uninterrupted Power Supply systems with adequate backup capacity. The centres are also provided with diesel generator (DG) sets which supplement the UPS. The main diesel generator is again supplemented by back ups.

"There has never been a situation since ICICI OneSource began operations that the company has been unable to provide services due to power issues," says Nakul Subramanyam, General Manager, Infrastructure & Facilities, ICICIOneSource proudly.

At the six-storey glass fašade office of Intel on Airport Road in Bangalore, it's a similar story.

Intel houses many of its software engineers and senior executives and a giant generator and other power backup systems like UPS that kick in within microseconds of a drop in the local power supply systems.

"We never realise when load shedding or power blackouts occur in the area. Our power backup system also shields us from fluctuations in the supply. Intel has taken care of all the power needs of this building within the building itself," says Intel spokesperson, Varghese Thomas.

Though power infrastructure is important, Thomas says that Intel's self-adequacy plan ensures that the lack of uninterrupted supply is not a factor that vexes the company.

"Manufacturing companies are the ones hit to a larger extent when there are power cuts. We really don't think about this issue at all," he says.

According to the MAIT-Emerson Network Power study which shows over 50 per cent of the Bangalore respondents are dependent on the grid, diesel generator as well as UPS, rendering Bangalore one of the more "back up measure" savvy states.

However, rural Karnataka is not so lucky. With barely seven hours of power supply everyday -- usually in the night -- farmers and local citizens are complaining publicly about the 'discriminatory' treatment meted out to them.

Even drinking water supply and farming in many villages have been affected because of the unavailability of power for the water pumps.

Opposition parties in the State have been quick to deride this as a sign of the 'anti-poor' policies followed by the local Congress government.

However, KPCTL's Shrivastava says that it is a needless brouhaha.

"Because of poor rains there is just not enough water in the reservoirs to generate hydel power. What can we do? We only took steps to conserve the power supply that we can generate," he says.

Karnataka uses a mix of hydel and thermal power, the ratio of which is normally a one-third hydel and two-thirds of thermal power. However, the poor monsoons last year resulted in this ratio being skewed to three-fourths thermal and the rest as hydel.

Now, if the monsoons are not normal, Karnataka is likely to face a problem again next year.

Officials say the state is adding capacity to ensure greater power is generated. Over the next three years, Karnataka plans to have three plants commissioned that would bring an additional 2200 mega watts of power to the state.

For this year though, the first few showers have provided temporary relief.

Water levels in key reservoirs like the Sherawati has helped the state generate some hydel power. In the last two days, 13 million units of power were generated from the reservoirs. A total of 302 million units of hydel power is required.

Two faulty generating stations in Talchar and Ramagundam are expected to kick into gear soon too. The stations which had developed technical problems have been repaired and are expected to be commissioned in a few days.

"Once the rain starts, we will start generating 10 million units per day in hydel power. There's been a drought for the last two years which we hope will end this year. The generating stations will turn on soon too. Either way, we think all these circumstances cannot come together again," says KPCL's Lakshmikantha.

Till then, much of Karnataka is keeping its fingers crossed and praying for the rain gods to not only provide relief from the heat but also from the power blackouts in the state.

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Number of User Comments: 1

Sub: power cut

Sir, 17 hours powercut in rural and periperal area of the cities is quite unheard of in the history of the entire country.Karnataka govt and ...

Posted by shashidharan k.v


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