The severe increment in electricity demand in the past few months has taken a toll over the distribution mechanism of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur districts with the state-owned utility—Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA)—running out of stock of transformers.
Due to a heavy growth in the energy demand, a large number of transformers have gone kaput and the NEA has no stock left to replace them. While cities such as Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur need transformers with at least 100KVA, 200KVA or 300KVA capacity, the capacity of ones in stock with NEA ranges at just 25KVA and 50KVA, the NEA said.
It is estimated that more than five to 10 transformers are exploding every day in the three districts. In the same period last year, only one or two transformers would explode.
According to NEA, as many as 446 transformers have exploded in the three districts till December 29, 2015 since India imposed a blockade on Nepal on September 22. As many as 578 transformers (before and after explosion) have been already replaced in the three districts.
According to NEA, of the total number of transformers which have exploded, 199 transformers are manufactured by Nepali companies, 106 have been imported from China, 76 from India, 42 from Japan, 11 from the United Kingdom, five from Thailand, five from South Korea and two from West Indies.
“We are out of stock now and the situation is alarming,” Ram Chandra Pandey, head of Distribution and Consumer Service Directorate said. “The increase in power demand in such level was unexpected. Our distribution mechanism has been hit by the earthquake.”
According to Pandey, transformers with 90MW energy capacity have been already replaced in Kathmandu and still the need seems endless. While demand of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur during normal time stands at around 240-250MW, the demand now has reached around 350MW, an increment of 100MW energy.
The NEA has stated that the explosion of transformer is high in residential areas in which a number of family members live under the same roof. Several areas in New Baneshwor, Jorpati, Kuleshwor, Balaju, Gyaneshwor and Lagankhel among others are witnessing more number of transformer explosions as compared with other locations in the three districts.
“Around four-five families live in a house and they all have similar needs and that too during the same time frame. Whenever there is availability of light, people tend to look at completing all their needs,” Pandey said, adding that the rapid urbanisation in the major three districts has made it difficult for NEA to make their distribution mechanism efficient. As residential homes in some of the core city and residential areas have been developed haphazardly, the NEA has no option but to distribute a large amount of lines through a single transformer.
However, the scenario outside these three districts is different. As general people outside Kathmandu have alternate to LPG, people have been managing their energy needs, balancing the load of the NEA system.
With the blockade imposed by India taking a toll on the availability of petroleum, people have increased their dependency on electric appliances. Be it induction cooker and rice cooker for cooking purpose, to heater for keeping warm and boiling water, people have been turning to electricity.
“Even those who have LPG tend to use electricity to save LPG. Nobody had envisioned that the use of electric appliances would increase in such a rapid pace. This is an extraordinary situation,” Pandey said.
While unavailability of transformers has been a big problem for NEA, lack of manpower has become another issue. The NEA has stated that while it takes around three hours for them to repair a kaput transformer, it has been taking three days in minimum for them to repair a single transformer these days. “First, we have limited manpower. Second, the area of focus has increased and we have distributed the same manpower. And third, there is no availability of fuel and other resources for us to mobilise these teams as per the need,” Pandey said, describing why it is taking longer for them to fix minor issues.
The other issue behind incompetent distribution mechanism of NEA, according to Pandey, is unavailability of adequate budget. According to him, the distribution department receives minimal budget as compared with the generation and transmission directorate, which has prevented the directorate from making significant reforms.
- As many as 446 transformers have exploded in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur in the past three months
- Kathmandu needs transformers with minimum capacity of 100KVA. It just has stocks of transformers with 25 and 50KVA capacity
- Power demand in the three districts has escalated from around 250MW to 350MW post blockade
- Transformer explosion high in residential areas where numerous families live in a common building
- Lack of manpower preventing NEA officials from providing immediate response