Study: BESCOM transformers poorly maintained, can disrupt power supply

A CSTEP study has found that many transformers in Bengaluru are poorly maintained and are not metered. Damaged transformers tend to disrupt power supply and pose a huge financial burden to BESCOM.
Due to poor maintenance and metering, transformers can get damaged frequently, causing power cuts. Pic: Ekta Sawant

Bengalureans are familiar with frequent power cuts lasting several hours, sometimes through the day. Irregular power supply interrupts our daily routines, especially with respect to work since many of us are working from home these days. It could also damage household appliances like refrigerators, air-conditioners and TV sets. In the case of medium, small and micro industries, erratic power supply affects production.

One of the most common reasons for power cuts is the poor maintenance of distribution transformers. Damaged transformers also pose a huge financial burden to BESCOM (Bangalore Electricity Supply Company). In 2017-18, BESCOM spent Rs 145 crore just to replace faulty transformers. But, with effective monitoring and maintenance, these issues can be avoided.

BESCOM’s monitoring visits can help ensure that the physical infrastructure of transformers is maintained. But metering them can alert officials to take preventive measures before any damage occurs. Hence, as per the Centre’s flagship programme Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY), 100% metering of distribution transformers is compulsory. And in Karnataka, at 86%, the progress rate is way higher than the national average of 67%.

Why transformer metering?

The electricity we get in our homes is generated at very high voltage, and then transmitted to us through electric lines over long distances. Since the appliances at our homes operate at low voltage, this high-voltage electricity needs to be converted to low-voltage electricity. Distribution transformers carry out this last-mile voltage conversion.

A transformer meter would record the electricity consumed by the transformer, and help gauge whether it is overloaded (i.e., supplying electricity to more consumers than its capacity) or underloaded. An overloaded transformer can stop functioning due to the blowing up of the fuse, leading to power cuts.

As per the UDAY dashboard, BESCOM has shown steady progress in transformer metering – 100% metering completed in urban areas and 62% in rural areas. But as a survey by us at CSTEP (Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy) showed, the situation on the ground is quite different.

Meters defective, transformers in bad shape

At CSTEP, we surveyed 707 transformers under BESCOM which serves eight districts including Bengaluru Urban and Rural. The survey threw up some startling results. Of the examined transformers, 40% were unmetered. Even among the remaining metered transformers, 49% meters were either defective or inaccessible due to poor maintenance. These involved instances of meter burnt out, meter not recording, and meter reading not visible.

A burnt-out transformer meter. Pic Credit: Rishu Garg

Of the 707 transformers surveyed overall, 130 were within BBMP limits. Of these, 15% transformer meters were defective and not in working condition.

In most cases, physical obstructions like creepers and shrubs were growing very close to the surveyed transformers. We also discovered transformers on poles, and transformer meters infested with rats and birds. Lack of maintenance and improper metering, as discussed earlier, can lead to transformer failures, causing interruptions and power cuts for the city’s residents.  

BESCOM data inaccurate too

To maintain transformers, BESCOM should first have exact data on these. But during the survey, we found data discrepancies. As per BESCOM’s data, it has 577 transformers, whereas as per our field survey there are 707. If this issue is not addressed, it can hamper BESCOM’s maintenance drives. 

BESCOM doesn’t have accurate data on the number of transformers in its jurisdiction. Pic: Ekta Sawant

A solution could be to identify and locate transformers using a geographical information system (GIS) mapping technique, and to create a profile for every transformer. This technique would also allow recording of details such as the transformer’s capacity, number of consumers connected to each transformer, and the load.

Besides, there needs to be a thorough energy auditing at the transformer level, as mandated by the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC). This would ensure that officials maintain and monitor transformers on a regular basis. However, full compliance to the mandate is yet to be seen. 

Distribution transformers are indeed the unsung heroes of the entire distribution network. Often overlooked, they work in the background so that consumers continue to receive seamless power at home. They also provide visibility to BESCOM about any last-mile connectivity issues at the consumer-end. Given that BESCOM is already cash-strapped and reeling under huge losses, proper maintenance and monitoring of this critical asset could bring in financial efficiency into the system, while enabling reliable power supply to consumers.


  1. K S IRSHAD AHMED says:

    CHAIRMAN should take the Ownership for the inefficiency of BESCOM Engineers,Public should file an Police compliant against the Chairman with BESCOM Vigilance Team.

  2. sankaran says:

    First mistake you notice on Bescom Transformer Yard is the absence of 21 MM thick Gravel should be filled.That is the first Criteria for outdoor Transformer Installation.Bescom must go for Ring Main Units with multiple feeder outlets feeding distribution transformer paving the removal of Road side mounted Transformers. All multistory apartment OSR areas shall be used for the installation of Ring Main Units and these units can be controlled by PLC systems. Bescom must adopt to the new tech available instead wasting more on Transmission & Distribution Losses. Take time off to compare the Domestic Tariff prevailing in all southern states. Bescom would stand alone from the rest of the other states.

  3. Sunil says:

    “A solution could be to identify and locate transformers using a geographical information system (GIS) mapping technique, and to create a profile for every transformer. This technique would also allow recording of details such as the transformer’s capacity, number of consumers connected to each transformer, and the load.”

    Thinking aloud, I believe there is no point waiting for the govt or Bescom to do this (transformer profile creation). This (please correct me if I am wrong) is neither too difficult nor too expensive to be approached as a citizen driven, open sourced, distributed project that can be accomplished by volunteers. How about thinking up ways to just do it right away?

    • Rishu Garg says:

      A DISCOM-consumer collaborative approach would be a better way to tackle this issue so as to make DISCOMs also accountable/responsible for the same.

  4. Hemachandra Babu.D says:

    I live in 2nd cross Dinnur Main Road R.T Nagar. We are the worst sufferers of power cuts. Just a few drops of rain and off goes the power to be restored only after a minimum of half an hour to one hour. Whereas residents on 1st cross enjoy uninterrupted power. The reason put forth buy the Bescom is that theirs is a different line, and the reason for the power cuts are transformer breakdown.This is the case in every rainy season and the transformers have never been maintained properly. This month I got a fat bill the reason being increased tariff. The Bescom is very prompt in raising the tariff regularly but they forget to maintain the transformers. The emergency help line is a misnomer as it is always engaged.

  5. Shashi says:

    Poor Maintenance may contribute just 1% of total outages. As we know transformers are static which require very less maintenance. Failure of transformer happens because of lenghthy lines. Power cuts happens because of poor policies.
    There is no dedicated carridors for any utilities in Bangalore.
    Gas lines , bwssb , drainage,ofc all everyone disturbing each other. Single damage to any utility leads to hours together ,even days sometimes, disturbance.
    Bangalore is full of unauthorised layouts. There is not even single infrastructure created in such layouts.roads ,electric lines , bwssb everything will install only after construction of houses. No corridors to create electrical transformeres. Which in turn overload the existing infrastructure to give basic facilities. Very less substations are creating because of these in authorised layouts , as they don’t spare any space as per current regulations. More lengthy lines contributing more inturruptions.
    All electrical overe head lines passing near trees even contributing more interruptions as there no policies and planning on tree trimmings or to grow trees under lines.
    Construction of buildings near the lines also one of the contributions.

  6. Saravan Kumar says:

    Very good effort by Citizen matters. Keep up the good work! Bangalore has been sufferings enormously for over a decade due to inefficiency of BESCOM. Transformer burst sounds can be heard every day with thick smoke emitting into clouds. A very common scene in HSR layout. Much of the apartments and shops run on diesel generators during monsoon rains. Damage to home appliances are another story. The trauma a power cut gives to small businesses, online class students etc is a shame for BESCOM.

  7. Rajagopal Rao says:

    Most of our day-to-day problems due to frequent power failure have been stated many people. My question is in-spite of many complaints BESCOM is not improving nor customer care is not attending our calls. In such situation what should be our stand & who will tie the bell. Always BESCOM reply to my what’s app Complaints are work is going on, but if they can not supply uninterrupted power supply why they have increased power tariff to household consumption in recent months, where is justification & over above due to frequent on-off power supply our valuable electrical & electronic equipments have got damaged, who will bear the cost of repair or replacement. It’s really BESCOM is nightmare & pathetic.

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