Most of the island city of Mumbai and several suburbs, including major commercial areas, were left without power for the entire day on Tuesday after a unit of Tata Power, generating 500 megawatts, tripped due to a technical snag in the morning. Distribution companies were compelled to resort to load shedding and while the affected unit, Unit 5 at the Trombay Power Station, was expected to be up and running by 2.30 pm, restoration work was still under way at 5 pm.
“Dark office in Mumbai. Lights out in the whole area. The coal crisis is beginning to literally show its dark side. A threat to the India story,” Anand Mahindra, chairman and managing director, Mahindra Group, tweeted. M&M has corporate offices in the Worli and Colaba areas of the city.
While no crisis of coal triggered Tuesday’s blackout in Mumbai, several parts of the country are reeling under power cuts after an estimated 14,000MW of generation capacity was pulled out due to a severe shortage of coal in northern, western and northeastern regions.
Last Friday, the Central Electricity Authority(CEA) had cautioned that 40,000MW of thermal generation capacity had turned “super-critical”, implying the plants could shut down unless coal supplies were restored immediately; about of the half of the capacity had less than eight days’ coal stocks.
Earlier on Thursday, the western and northern grids had sent out alerts warning regional distribution companies from overdrawing from the grid. The Western Regional Load Despatch Centre (WRLDC) issued a warning late on August 27 saying the regional grid was “severely affected”. The loss of generation capacity was estimated at 5,843 MW, mainly attributable to coal scarcity.
Experts claimed power could have been purchased from the open market but there was the fear a weak transmission infrastructure might not be able to handle the load. Tata Power said in a statement that while the power was available in neighbouring areas of Maharashtra, “due to overloading of state transmission network, it has not been made possible to import power for Mumbai by these distribution companies”.
The affected areas in Mumbai are served by state-owned Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking (BEST), Reliance Infrastructure and Tata Power. A BEST official said it draws about 250 MW from Tata Power’s Unit 5 and had resorted to 140-150 MW of load shedding to deal with the demand.
According to the company’s investor presentation for July 2014, the Tata Power has