Natural disaster is a regular phenomenon in the Indian Peninsula affecting not only life and livelihood but also energy infrastructure largely. The frequency of extreme cyclonic events is rising and it is more prominent in coastal belts of India. For example, since 1965 Odisha, one of the Indian states, has experienced floods for 17 years, droughts for 19 years, and cyclone for seven years as per available record of the state government. The state experienced a major cyclone called super cyclone during the year 1999, whose intensity and impact were very high as compared to any other natural disasters during last 30 years in the climatic change history of Odisha. There was 8 metres high torrential storm surge that hit the coast of Odisha, traveling up to 20 km inland.
The super cyclone damaged 17,110 km² of crops, uprooted 90 million trees, and damaged 275,000 homes. Around 1.67 million people were homeless. It affected 19.5 million people and killed 9,803 people. Around 2.5 million domestic animals were killed and around 5 million farmers lost their livelihood. The energy infrastructure was very badly affected with a complete blackout for 2 to 3 months in Jagatsinhgpur district. Even, the energy infrastructure of Bhubaneswar, which is the capital city of Odisha, was very badly affected with a complete blackout over one week. Since then, the state government has become very proactive in managing the impact of natural disaster with the establishment of a disaster management unit.
Besides, Odisha also experienced several major cyclones (please refer Fig.1) viz. Phailin (2013), Hudhud (2014) and Fani (2019). Each time the energy infrastructure has been severely affected due to cyclone, because electricity transmission lines, transformers, stations and substations are completely open infrastructure in Odisha. For instance, Table 1 shows that cyclone Fani had damaged massive power infrastructure amounting to Rs. 8,139 crores in Odisha that include 84 thousand kilometres of low tension wires, 2 lakh electrical poles, four 132 kV grids, and 11 thousand distribution transformers. The damage to such infrastructure due to cyclonic events requires huge amount investment to restore the infrastructure and supply electricity to each households, government and private offices and industries.
The total damage of power infrastructure is estimated to be Rs. 9786.43 crores during 1999 to 2019 due to impact of various cyclones as mentioned in Table 1.
Also, huge amount of state revenue is lost due to cyclone led blackouts. Therefore, to adapt to climate change impact such infrastructure need to be resilient. This is possible only if the conventional energy infrastructure is replaced by cyclone resilient power infrastructure.
Cyclone Resilient Power Infrastructure Status in Odisha
Cyclone resilient power infrastructure is consisting of underground cables and overhead climate resilient cables and compact or retrofitting substations. There was a plan in 2013 to implement underground cabling programme under the State Capital Region Improvement in Power System (SCRIPS) targeting to twin city of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. However, the work was affected when cyclone Phailin struck the State. Then, Govt. of Odisha started underground cabling work in 2016. Underground cabling work in the capital city, Bhubaneswar started in 2016, with an aim to cover 350 kilometres of cables underground. In the first phase Rs 1,500 crore was allotted to the Central Electricity Supply Utility (CESU) and the Odisha Power Transmission Corporation Limited (OPTCL) to implement power cabling project. However, lack of skilled work force created barrier on the way to implement it. The work was also delayed due to the Hockey World Cup and other unavoidable factors. The Odisha Government in 2020 decided to construct disaster-resilient power infrastructure in nine coastal districts. The estimated cost to build such infrastructure in nine coastal districts is around Rs. 19,000 crores, which as per the government will cope up with summer cyclones.
In the first phase, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore and Jagatsinghpur districts were supposed to be covered under this scheme. Whereas, Puri, Cuttack, Khurda, Ganjam and Gajapati were supposed to be covered in the second phase. Government decided to provide underground cabling to the urban areas and cyclone-resilient overhead cabling to rural areas of these nine districts. It had been decided in the draft plan that all the 220 kV, 132 kV, 33 kV and 11 kV lines would be converted into cyclone resilient, while the options were given to convert the DP-mounted substations into compact or retrofitting substations. The work is still under progress.
Extreme cyclonic events are regular phenomena in the east-coast region of India that has affected not only the property and life but also energy infrastructure drastically. The frequency of extreme cyclonic events is also rising. Since 1965, east-coast of India experienced several floods, droughts, and cyclones and a little effort has been given to provide cyclone resilient energy infrastructure in the east-coast region amounting to huge amount of public expenditure during post-cyclonic events.
Starting from super cyclone in 1999 to cyclonic event, Bulbul in 2019, the east coast observed around six cyclonic events, which damaged around Rs. 38398.74 crores of infrastructure, which is consisting of Rs. 9786.43 crore worth of energy infrastructure. The major energy infrastructure being damaged in the region are low-tension overhead wires, electrical poles, electric grids, electricity distribution transformers etc. Time to take to restore the electricity infrastructures during post cyclonic events is around one week in urban areas and around two months in rural areas. Therefore, it is important to use cyclone resilient infrastructure in order to minimize the damage and save huge amount of public expenditure.
Government of Odisha in 2013 had planned to implement underground cabling programme under the State Capital Region Improvement in Power System initially for both Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. The effective underground cabling work in the capital city, Bhubaneswar started in 2016, with an aim to cover 350 kilometres of cables underground. Rs 1,500 crore was allotted to the Central Electricity Supply Utility and the Odisha Power Transmission Corporation Limited to lunch underground power cabling project. Due consideration was given by the state government to construct disaster-resilient power infrastructure in nine coastal districts at a cost of around Rs. 19,000 crores.
While huge amount of investment is needed for underground cables and climate resilient overhead cables a thorough pre-feasibility assessment in line with sustainability of the infrastructure is required. This is because there may be flood and the water may go inside the tunnel. So, in that case the problem may arise for any kind of repair for any small damage. There should be prohibition for any kind of construction activity, where the underground cables are undergrounded. Similarly, cyclone resilient overhead cables may be harmful to birds. So, some kind of warning message using artificial intelligence need to be provided to the birds.
Dr. Narendra N. Dalei
The author is the Head of Centre for Energy, Environment and Sustainability Studies, also the Assistant Professor (SG)-Dept. of Economics and IB, School of Business, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun, India.