Power cuts blow valley denizens' fuse

Kathmandu, December 9

The head office of Nepal Electricity Authority at Ratnapark has lately started receiving unusual number of people.

“Yesterday, an entire bus filled with people arrived here from Bhaktapur,” said Ram Chandra Pandey, chief of the Distribution and Consumer Services Division at NEA, the country’s sole electricity supplier. “People from other areas of Kathmandu Valley also come in droves.”

All these people arrive at NEA to lodge one complaint: power outage in the area they are living.

As petroleum crisis is deepening in the country because of Tarai protests and blockade on Nepal-India border points, electricity supply is also becoming erratic.

These days, many households have to do without electricity for hours. And even when the supply resumes, it lasts only for one or two hours.

This has started annoying people, who are already tired of over eight hours of official power cuts per day.

“We are aware of these problems and are working 24 hours to resolve them. But consumers should also be careful and not use all the electric appliances at once,” said Pandey.

Since the shortage of petroleum products especially liquefied petroleum gas and kerosene hit the country, people have turned to electric hot plates and induction cookers to cook food.

These electronic appliances are power guzzlers. An induction cooker, for instance, consumes around 2,000 watts of electricity at once.

Other electric equipment, such as water pumps, immersion heaters, clothing irons and rice cookers, that are used simultaneously with induction cookers also consume a lot of electricity.

“When all the households in an area use all these appliances, unmanageable load is created on transformers and cables. This causes voltage to drop. That’s why many people are not being able to use many of their electric appliances.

And if things turn worse, transformers and cables catch fire, cutting the power supply,” Pandey said.

In one-month period between November 5 and December 5, 76 transformers became defunct in the Valley alone ‘because they caught fire due to overload’, show the NEA data. Before the fuel crisis, only two such cases used to be reported per month, Pandey said.

But a transformer that is on fire is not the only reason for power outage. Electricity supply may cut off if cables (that run to and from transformers) or moulded case circuit breaker (MCCB) of transformers catch fire.

Power supply also halts when fuse of transformers blows or MCCB of transformers trips.

One way to resolve this problem, according to Pandey, is to increase the capacity of transformers.

This means that a transformer, with capacity of, say, 100 kilovolt-amps, receiving load of, say, 200 KVA because of greater electricity demand, should be replaced with the one that can resist up to 200 KVA of load.

“We are doing this. But along with transformers, we have to replace the cables as well, which we haven’t been able to.

We cannot replace all the cables at the moment because we are overwhelmed with consumers’ complaints and we lack human resources to perform this job,” said Pandey, adding, “NEA received around 10,000 complaints in the last one month, as against 1,000 during the months prior to the crisis.”

But again NEA is also skeptic about replacing all the transformers with bigger ones because it is still uncertain about load demand in the post-crisis period.

“If areas, where high-capacity transformers have been installed, do not get similar load after the crisis, electricity leakage will rise, which will only increase our losses,” said Pandey.

“So, the best solution is to use fewer appliances at once and turn on lights only when necessary.”