Milestone-Proposal talk:The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation - 1897

Revision as of 14:59, 1 May 2021 by Juan Carlos (talk | contribs) (I don't like the citation -- ~~~~: new section)

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== What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? -- Harish (talk) 10:19, 14 October 2020 (UTC) ==


The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Limited started distribution of electricity in the form of Direct Current supply (DC) in the city of Calcutta on a trial basis to a few customers from 1898 which was the British capital of India at that time.

The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Limited commissioned the first Thermal Power Plant on 17 April, 1899 at Emambagh Lane, near Prinsep Street in Calcutta. The initial capacity was three boilers of 500 hp capacity, producing Direct Current (DC) at 450 Volts with an earthed mid-point, resulting in (+225V)-0-(-225V) DC supply, providing power for light & electric fan at Government offices and Domestic houses, along with street lighting.

In 1902, the Calcutta Tramways Company switched over to electricity from horse drawn carriages. Advent of electricity in the city heralded rapid urbanisation and industrialisation in the city and adjacent area. This brought in an era of widespread electricity usage in the Indian Subcontinent with electricity ushering in a new era of industrial growth.

The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Limited established additional DC generating stations subsequently at Alipore in March, 1902 of 750 kW capacity, Howrah in May, 1906 of 165 kW capacity and Ultadanga in September, 1906 of 1200 kW capacity. Cossipore generating station was commissioned in 1910 with a capacity of 15 MW, generating Alternating Current (AC) at 6000V, bringing in a major technical change in the generation of electricity. This however, required step-down transformers and conversion into DC through rotary converters to maintain the distribution of DC to the customers, bringing in the establishment of ‘substations’ within the heart of Calcutta. The rotary converters were later replaced by mercury-arc rectifiers and much later, to Silicon rectifiers.

The Calcutta dockyards were a busy site for travel and trade, working round the clock. The Port Commissioner had their own generators for lighting up the docks but found it convenient to switch over to electricity supply from The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Limited in 1926, with the establishment of a generating station at Garden Reach with a capacity of 22.5MW.

Thereafter, it has been a history of growth both in area of coverage as well as in generating capacity. Distribution of 6000V 50 Hz AC supply to factories started from 1915 while distribution of 230V 50Hz AC supply picked up from 1921, running parallely with DC distribution until DC distribution was totally phased out in 2008.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements? -- Harish (talk) 10:25, 14 October 2020 (UTC)

The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Limited can proudly claim that it brought this wonder form of energy to Calcutta, a bare 10 years after it was first used to light up London – the then undisputed capital of the world. In those days of Calcutta, with hand pulled ‘punkhas’ or swinging fans, dim gas lights and flickering oil lamps, electricity was like a “friendly and obedient Genie” ! Industries grew at a fast pace with the availability of electrical power through lights and motors. It set an example to the rest of India and other British colonies in the east to adopt electrical power as the most convenient and efficient alternative.

Expert review #1 uploaded on expert's behalf by Administrator -- Administrator4 (talk) 13:34, 25 January 2021 (UTC)

Here are my comments supporting the designation of CESC as an IEEE Milestone.

1) Is the suggested wording of the Plaque Citation accurate?

Yes, it accurately reflects the history and significance of origins of electrification in Calcutta.

2) Is the evidence presented in the proposal of sufficient substance and accuracy to support the Citation?

Generally, Yes. But the following inconsistency needs to be explained or removed.

In identifying the year or range of years in which the achievement occurred, it says: 1897

But in the citation itself it says, the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Limited commissioned the first Thermal Power Plant on 17 April, 1899. Wasn't the start of the first ever electric power plant the achievement? If this is the case, then the achievement occurred in 1899, not in 1897.

3) Does the proposed milestone represent a significant technical achievement?

The establishment of several DC power plants inside Calcutta city followed by an AC power plant, while at the same time providing both DC and AC electricity service to its consumers in the city definitely represents a significant technical achievement.

Saifur Rahman, PhD
Past-President, IEEE Power & Energy Society

Expert Review #2 uploaded on expert's behalf by Administrator 8 February 2021

The following is my review of the proposal to designate the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) as an IEEE Milestone because in 1897 it was the first organization in all of South Asia to start the supply of electricity to the public. In conducting my review, I have not only thoroughly examined the documents supplied with the proposal but have also done significant research of my own by examining many other published documents and consulting many individuals who have spent their whole careers in the Indian power industry.

My considered view is that this proposal is highly deserving and I strongly recommend that IEEE designate the foundation of CESC in 1897 as an IEEE Milestone.

I shall first try to answer the questions you have raised in your review request:

1) Is the suggested wording of the Plaque Citation accurate?

Yes, the suggested wording is completely accurate. However, later in this review I shall suggest some changes in the citation to make it more prominently reflect the importance of its achievement.

2) Is the evidence presented in the proposal of sufficient substance and accuracy to support the Citation?

Yes, the evidence presented in the proposal and especially in the accompanying documents is of sufficient substance and accuracy to support the citation. In fact, being the first electric power company that led the electrification for all of South Asia (not to mention the extent of the British Empire from the Middle East to Southeast Asia) CESC’s pioneering technology and business innovations has influenced the growth and flourishing of this industry throughout the region. I’ll mention a few of these other achievements in answer to the next question although the milestone recognition is only for being the first.

3) Does the proposed milestone represent a significant technical achievement?

Although electricity was known for a couple of centuries, harnessing it and using it to supply energy to the general public became possible only after 1880. The start of the Pearl Street generating station in New York City (1882) is often considered the beginning of the electric era although many other American and European cities (like Chicago, London and Berlin) were independently ushering in electricity in parallel.

However, Asia was a step behind. Japan, which was never colonized, did start electrification of Tokyo in the mid-1880s. Calcutta was the first in all of South Asia to do so in 1897 by the formation of the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC). At that time Calcutta was the capital of the British Raj and as it was both the the seat of the government as well as the center of commerce, it was the second city of the British Empire after London. In fact, the British government in Calcutta supervised the empire from the Middle East, Eastern Africa to Southeast Asia. Thus CESC became the lead power company that led the electrification of the Indian subcontinent and much of the Asian and African parts of the empire followed suit (Bombay and Singapore electrified in early 1900s).

Some of the major achievements of CESC are:

• First power plant in South Asia at Emambagh Lane of 3x500hp (about 1MW) to supply electricity at 450/225V DC to residential, commercial, government buildings and street lighting in central Calcutta. (Government House, where the Viceroy lived and ruled British India, was one of the first buildings to be electrified and the famous Lord George Curzon was the first Viceroy to live with electricity.)

• Although the expected load was lighting with a peak in the evening as has been experienced in other electrified cities at the time, a high demand was also experienced in the afternoon of electric fans. The immediate demand for electric fans in the tropical temperatures of Calcutta should not have been surprising and it had the immediate advantage of increasing the utilization factor of the generating plant. (This was also a major cultural shift where the commercial and government buildings rapidly replaced the punkah – large cloth fans suspended from the ceiling moved backward and forward by manually pulling on a cord to move the air in the room – with electric fans. The Calcutta Court, the highest court in India, was among the first to order electric fans in the courtroom.)

• The Calcutta Tramways Company predated electrification by about 20 years with trams pulled by horses, and were experimenting with steam engines when CESC started up. Calcutta trams switched over to electric traction in 1900 and is one of the rare cities that still provides electric tram transportation.

• Like most of the very early electric companies, e.g. in New York or London, CESC provided electric service by DC in the beginning. Although it became clear by the early 1900s that AC will become the standard and CESC only built AC generating stations after 1910, certain areas of central Calcutta continued to have customers serviced by DC. This meant that the DC service area and the Tram company, whose load kept growing, required AC generation to be converted to DC which CESC continued to do using rotating converters at first, then mercury arc rectifiers followed by solid-state converters. Although the Tram company still requires DC service, a dwindling number of other DC customers were serviced till the 1970s.

• The rapid spread of electrification meant the service territory of CESC expanded and the urban area across the Hooghly river from Calcutta, called Howrah, became part of this service area. A generating plant was built there but it was also interconnected by laying cables across the river. However, Calcutta had the largest port in Eastern India that had to be reached from the sea by the river Hooghly and this river was also the connection to all the cities upriver on the Ganges into northern India. Thus this river was the major artery for commerce in India and had to be dredged regularly, so laying cables on the riverbed was risky. CESC built a tunnel under the river which was an engineering first in South Asia and had the foresight to size it to carry many more and higher voltage cables later when Calcutta became part of the larger Indian grid and imported much of the power from the west of Calcutta as the growth of thermal generation in the city was curtailed.

• CESC pioneered many engineering ‘firsts’ in India although these were done over time and not in the very early years. Some examples include (a) two-tier tariff with the cheaper rate for large appliances to encourage higher electricity consumption (discontinued when conservation became a higher priority); (b) automatic transformer tap adjustments with cable switching to control voltage; (c) black start capability in thermal power plants; (d)islanded operation under contingency conditions. CESC continues to be a technology leader in modern India.

I should point out that after Indian independence, the government took over and consolidated the electric power industry into the public sector so that by 1970 all electric power companies where under state or central (federal) government ownership. CESC was one of only two companies in all of India that were left as investor-owned (the other company was Tata Power that serviced Mumbai/Bombay). This was because CESC was well-run and had always been a leader of this industry. Of course, in recent years the whole industry has been slowly deregulated and many private players are now in this market, especially in the electric generation industry. CESC has continued through all these changes as a privately owned and vertically integrated power company.

The start of commercial electric supply is usually attributed to the Edison Illuminating Company which built the Pearl Street generating station and supplied electricity to the financial district of New York City. Similarly, the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC)started the commercial supply of electricity in South Asia by building the Emambagh Lane power station to supply the financial/government district of Calcutta. The Edison Illuminating Company after several mergers survives as the Consolidated Edison Company of New York whereas CESC still uses its original name although it moved its incorporation from London to Calcutta after Indian independence. The original headquarters of CESC, named Victoria House for the reigning queen at that time, is considered a historical building of classical architecture in the commercial center of Calcutta. As this is still the headquarters of CESC, it is very appropriate that the IEEE Milestone Plaque be placed in this building. (The original first DC power plant at Emambagh Lane is quite close to this building although the plant was replaced with an AC substation a long time ago.)

Given that electricity is the life-blood of all modern societies, the impact of the start of the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation in 1897 on the development of South Asia cannot be overstated. Of course, electrification of any area has had profound and momentous effect on the economic, financial, industrial and social well-being of that area but the start of CESC was the beginning of electrification that swept through all of the Indian subcontinent as well as the Asian portion of the British Empire. It is for this reason CESC should be recognized as a major milestone of human development history and recognized by the IEEE.

Finally, I would like to suggest some small changes to the proposed citation to strengthen the significance of the achievement. The proposed citation is: The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Limited commissioned the first Thermal Power Plant on 17 April, 1899 at Emambagh Lane, Prinsep Street in Calcutta. The initial capacity of 500 HP Direct Current (DC) at 225 and 450 Volts supplied for Street lighting, Domestic load and Electrification of the Calcutta Tram Ways. CESC switched to alternating current (AC) in 1920. This heralded an era of electricity usage in Indian Subcontinent. (68 words)

My suggested citation: The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Limited (1897) established the first commercial electric supply company in South Asia. CESC switched on the 1000KW thermal generation on 17 April, 1899 at Emambagh Lane in Calcutta (Kolkata) supplying 450/225V DC for street lighting, residential and office buildings, and Calcutta Tramways. This heralded the era of electricity in the Indian Subcontinent and across the British Empire in Asia. (64 words) This is a suggestion only and will leave the final language to the IEEE and the proposers.

I have tried to lay out the case for why this proposal for an IEEE Milestone is highly deserving. Calcutta (now known as Kolkata) is no longer the seat of the Indian government nor the largest commercial center in India but around the turn of the previous century it was the second city in the British empire and played a pivotal role in ushering in the era of electricity to South Asia and the Asian portion of the British Empire. Establishment of the first commercial electric supply company in Calcutta heralded the economic, industrial and social changes in this large portion of the globe. It meets all the criteria for being considered an IEEE Milestone.

I have worked my whole career of more than 50 years in the field of electric power engineering. Although I have lived and worked all this time in the USA, I grew up only about 150 miles from Calcutta, a region that is the industrial belt of India very much developed by the electrification started by CESC. I am an IEEE Fellow and members of both the US and Indian National Academy of Engineering; I have advised both the US and Indian government on their power grids. Over the years I have become more interested in the history and evolution of the electric power industry all over the world. I am honored to have been asked to review this proposal for an IEEE Milestone and I shall be very glad to further help in your decision making on this matter.

Sincerely,
Anjan Bose
Regents Professor

Request response from the proposer for submitting comments /approval ion suggested milestone citation edit -- Ranju (talk) 14:14, 11 February 2021 (UTC)

The experts who reviewed the milestone proposal are:

Expert #1 : Saifur Rahman, PhD Joseph Loring Professor & Director Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute Arlington, Virginia, USA

Expert #2: Anjan Bose Regents Professor Washington State University

Based on the suggestions received from both the experts who reviewed the milestone proposal, the proposer is requested to comment on the modifications.

Thank you,

Ranjit R.Nair | Advocate to IEEE Milestone: The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation - 1897 | Member, IEEE History Committee, 2020 - 2021

Re: Request response from the proposer for submitting comments /approval ion suggested milestone citation edit -- Harish (talk) 06:08, 6 April 2021 (UTC)

We have received two reviews and feedback from the reviewers

1. Prof. Saifur Rahaman on 25 Jan, 2021

Incorporation year to achievement year from 1897 to 1899

2. Prof. Anjan Bose on 8 Feb, 2021

Suggested citation: The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Limited (1897) established the first commercial electric supply company in South Asia. CESC switched on the 1000KW thermal generation on 17 April, 1899 at Emambagh Lane in Calcutta (Kolkata) supplying 450/225V DC for street lighting, residential and office buildings, and Calcutta Tramways. This heralded the era of electricity in the Indian Subcontinent and across the British Empire in Asia. (64 words) This is a suggestion only and will leave the final language to the IEEE and the proposers. In response to this, we have done the changes to the citation as below incorporation the recommendations of Prof. Saifur Rahaman and Prof. Anjan Bose and submitted in ETHW system 10 Feb, 2021

Revised citation

The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation - 1899

The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Limited (1897) established the first commercial electric supply company in South Asia. CESC switched on the 1000KW thermal generation on 17 April, 1899 at Emambagh Lane, Prinsep Street in Calcutta (Kolkata) supplying 450/225V DC for street lighting, residential, office buildings and Calcutta Tramways. This heralded the era of electricity in the Indian Subcontinent. With this all required updates has been completed

Re: Re: Request response from the proposer for submitting comments /approval ion suggested milestone citation edit -- Ranju (talk) 16:22, 7 April 2021 (UTC)

Thanks Harish for the response, I shall notify the proposed changes to the experts.
Re: Re: Re: Request response from the proposer for submitting comments /approval ion suggested milestone citation edit -- Ranju (talk) 06:06, 21 April 2021 (UTC)

Both the experts have consented to the proposed changes in the citation. We are good to go for the History committee review for the milestone proposal.

Thanks,
Ranjit R Nair
Milestone advocate

-- Bberg (talk) 19:18, 22 April 2021 (UTC)

Thank you for this proposal, but it includes a confusing set of comments, including a very long paragraph which was clearly written to include bullet points and possibly other breaks. Some embedded HTML is required for clear readability, so each line which precedes a break or a bullet point should conclude with "br" surrounded by "<" and ">" to insert a new line. I will read this paragraph once you add this formatting.

The comments cite "the documents supplied with the proposal" but no documents are cited or linked on the proposal page. Note that at least 5 are required. This is essential since no proof has been provided re: the claim of "first commercial electric supply company in South Asia."

Citations comments:
1. The 1897 and 1899 dates are both discussed in the comments, but "(1897)" remains unexplained within the proposed citation.
2. You should add "(CESC)" after the company name in the title since you use the acronym in the citation.
3a. I propose that you rewrite this sentence "CESC switched on the 1000 kW thermal generation on 17 April, 1899 at Emambagh Lane, Prinsep Street in Calcutta (Kolkata) supplying 450/225V DC for street lighting, residential, office buildings and Calcutta Tramways."
3b. Proposed new version: "When the CESC switched on its 1000 kW thermal generation power plant at Emambagh Lane, Prinsep Street in Calcutta (now Kolkata) on 17 April 1899, 450/225V DC became available to provide power for street lighting, residential and office buildings, and Calcutta Tramways."

Re: -- Ranju (talk) 09:52, 27 April 2021 (UTC)

Dear Brian,

Thanks for your comments. The requested HTML formatting has been done on the discussion page, you may please review. The proposer will be updating the supporting documents shortly and respond to your citation recommendation.

Re: Re: -- Harish (talk) 05:06, 28 April 2021 (UTC)

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Dear All,

Please find the updated Citation for your review

The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) - 1899

CESC established the first commercial electric supply company in South Asia 1987. On 17 April 1899 CESC switched on its 1000 kW 450/225V DC thermal generation power plant at Emambagh Lane, Prinsep Street in Calcutta (now Kolkata) to deliver power for street lighting, residential, office buildings and Calcutta Tramways. This heralded the era of electricity in the Indian Subcontinent.

Re: Re: Re: -- Harish (talk) 07:45, 28 April 2021 (UTC)
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Dear All,

The below citation is reviewed by Kolkata Section

The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation Ltd. (CESC) - 1899

CESC incorporated as the first commercial electric supply company in South Asia in 1897. On 17 April 1899, CESC, switched on its 1000 kW 450/225V DC thermal generation power plant at Emambagh Lane, Prinsep Street in Calcutta (now Kolkata) to deliver power for street lighting, residences, offices and Calcutta Tramways. This heralded the era of electrification in the Indian Subcontinent.

Re: -- Harish (talk) 11:05, 27 April 2021 (UTC)

Replace this text with your reply

Title and Citation -- JaninA (talk) 05:42, 26 April 2021 (UTC)

I second the BB's comment about the date.

Also, four words from the title "The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation" are exactly repeated as the first four words of the Citation! This does not look good on the plaque as both the title and the Citation engraved... Also a waste of words. It is better to add more information instead.

Re: Title and Citation -- Harish (talk) 15:29, 27 April 2021 (UTC)

Replace this text with your reply

We have taken the feedback and made the changes in the citation accordingly.

Tend to support the proposal but I have important reservations -- John Vardalas (talk) 23:11, 26 April 2021 (UTC)

The heart of the proposal, as laid out in the citation, rests on two claims: an engineering first in the region of South Asia, and a profound impact on course of electrification of the Indian subcontinent. Though I believe that these claims are most likely correct, I do not see any references cited in the proposal that support these claims. The issue is not technical accuracy, in an engineering sense, but one historical accuracy. Are there no historical studies of electrification in South Asia, during British colonial times, that can be referenced? If there are, they should be referenced as supporting evidence. If not the proposer has a larger burden of proof.

Re: Tend to support the proposal but I have important reservations -- Ranju (talk) 09:48, 27 April 2021 (UTC)

Dear John,

Here are two documents that talks about the history of electrification in Indian subcontinent.
1. Elsevier - Utilities policy - Feb 2014 - British investment in the Indian electricity sector

2. History of Electric power in India 1890-1990 : Published in: 2007 IEEE Conference on the History of Electric Power - History of electric power in India (1890 – 1990)

I have requested the proposer to update these supplementary evidences in the proposal page, which will be done shortly.
Thanks

Re: Re: Tend to support the proposal but I have important reservations -- Harish (talk) 11:17, 27 April 2021 (UTC)

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Dear John,

We have uploaded the relevant documents in the google drive. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1qzcdWrI8MKIB4s7EbwZ9HMw6jeJ3KiZa?usp=sharing

Re: Tend to support the proposal but I have important reservations -- Harish (talk) 16:53, 27 April 2021 (UTC)

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Please refer to the attached file "Hundred years of Electricity in Calcutta" by S. Benrjee. In 1895 Calcutta Electricity Lighting Act was passed by then British Government, it authorised the local government to grant the electricity licences. M/s Kilburn and co were granted a licence as agents of the Indian Electric Co. Ltd .This was registered in London in Jan 1897. In Feb same year the name was changed to the Calcutta Electric Supply Company Ltd. As per reviewer Prof. Anjan Bose “CESC was the first organization in all of South Asia to start the supply of electricity to the public. Asia was a step behind. Japan, which was never colonized, did start electrification of Tokyo in the mid-1880s. Calcutta was the first in all of South Asia to do so in 1897 by the formation of the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC). At that time Calcutta was the capital of the British Raj and as it was both the seat of the government as well as the center of commerce, it was the second city of the British Empire after London. In fact, the British government in Calcutta supervised the empire from the Middle East, Eastern Africa to Southeast Asia. Thus CESC became the lead power company that led the electrification of the Indian subcontinent and much of the Asian and African parts of the empire followed suit (Bombay and Singapore electrified in early 1900s).” This clearly establishes the fact that CESC was the first company to provide the electricity to the public in the Indian Subcontinent.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1qzcdWrI8MKIB4s7EbwZ9HMw6jeJ3KiZa?usp=sharing

I don't like the citation -- Juan Carlos (talk) 14:59, 1 May 2021 (UTC)

this seems to be a good example of a “first “ achievement and deserves an IEEE Milestone Re: the citation, here are many different and possibly repeated dates. and too much emphasys in the unimportant name of the company-[and its date of its stabkishement, probably. they needed 2 years to start generating]