Foreman Jib Narayan Shah tied safety belt and climbed up the electricity pole with an operating rod to check the condition of a 100kv transformer which caught fire on Saturday evening.
Power supply to Banglamukhi area of Balkot was cut off due to damage in one of the cables of the transformer. It took Shah and his two assistants, who are working with Thimi Distribution Center Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), around two hours to restore power supply in the area.
Of late, electricity transformers are receiving huge load pressure as households are waiting for load-shedding to end so that they can use electricity to cook, pump water and warm up their homes, among others.
“As people use electric appliances all at once, transformers and cables with definite capacity cannot resist load and get exploded,” Shah said, adding that the growing demand for electricity due to shortage of cooking fuel was causing transporters to catch fire.
Though Shah and his team are not allowed to repair transformers at the site, they have been repairing transformers on the pole itself to restore electricity supply at the earliest. “It can take even a week to restore power if we send the transformer to NEA’s Lainchaur-based transformer workshop,” Shah, who joined NEA as an electrician 11 years ago, said.
NEA’s Thimi Distribution Center has three mobile teams, including the one led by Shah, to sort out technical problems in electricity supply. These teams monitor supply areas between Manohara and Hanumante Khola as well as Gundu, Balkot, and Dadhikot. These teams are repairing about five transformers and changing fuse at more than a dozen locations on a daily basis.
Shah said the problem can be resolved by replacing the 100kv transformer with the 150kv capacity transformer. “But cables connected to the houses might catch fire due to flow of high voltage. To prevent this, customers should replace their 50mm cables by 95mm cables,” he added.
Pushkal Thapa, a resident of Banglamukhi area of Balkot, says his electricity bill has more than doubled from average monthly expense of Rs 650 since the blockade started. This shows that demand for electricity has increased significantly due to scarcity of petroleum products, among others.
According to NEA officials, an average of eight transformers catch fire in Kathmandu Valley every day. More than damaged 550 transformers have been sent to Lainchaur-based workshop for repairs, they said.
Ram Chandra Pandey, chief of NEA’s Distribution and Consumer Services Directorate, said complaints from consumers have increased by around tenfold in recent weeks. “Most of our technicians have fallen sick as they have to work for up to 18 hours a day throughout the week,” he added. He also said distribution system in residential areas has seen recurring overload in the past few weeks.
Pandey also said NEA need to revamp its distribution system as existing system cannot resist demand load which has nearly doubled.
NEA is also running out of repair materials including copper wires. According to NEA, 108 transformers have caught fire and more than 300 incidents of cables catching fire have been reported in the last two weeks. Similarly, more than 3,000 fuses and 157 MCBs have been damaged during the period.
The state-owned power utility is also facing shortage of transformers as its consignment has been stuck at Nepal-India border as well as Kolkata port since the blockade started.