If the load despatch centres had isolated the states which overdrew power, from the grid, this mess would not have happened. It is amazing that this was not done
The terrible and torturous Tuesday that some 700 million people experienced, apart from the lakhs of crores of rupees that the nation lost in industrial production, is not one of its kind. It may sound ominous, but others are likely to follow if checks and measures are strictly not enforced.
It is no laughing matter for the new kid on the block in the power ministry, Sushil Kumar Shinde, to say to say that it took USA four days to overcome the power outage as against the eight hours that India took to restore power supply.
As more detailed information is now emerging from the mess as a result of the grid collapse, it is apparent that both Northern Regional Local Despatch Centre and the State Load Despatch Centres were fully aware that three states—UP, Punjab and Haryana—were, in fact, indulging in massive overdrawing of power. They simply passed the buck by filing petitions with the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) instead of preventing the collapse by isolating the concerned states in the system.
On the political front, BSP and BJP walked out of the Assembly in Lucknow over the power crisis; chief minister Akilesh Yadav slammed the UPA government at the Centre for denying coal linkage to state’s power plants and he attacked the Congress party for not being supportive.
But, according to a senior official in the power ministry, the states were expected to follow the grid discipline by not overdrawing power and also set up automatic demand management schemes including UFRs—Under Frequency Relays. The states simply did not comply with this essential requirement for smooth running of the system. Now a time frame should be set for this imperative necessity and no excuses should be accepted.
The control rooms of these load despatch centres were fully aware that simultaneous overdrawing would lead to the grid collapse, but they failed to isolate the states from the grid, which is why it collapsed. Why was this issue not taken up when they had pointed out this anomaly earlier?
The question that would arise under these difficult circumstances is how are these centres manned? Can there be a nexus between the posted personnel and the party in power? Or that they were simply careless and assumed that ‘nothing’ would happen on such a massive scale causing the grid to collapse, as such lapses have ‘happened’ before? It is difficult to say, but worth a serious investigation.
If and when the power ministry or the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) decides on such a national issue and set up an independent competent authority to carry out an investigation, those who are currently holding the positions, when this collapse occurred, should be suspended till the work is complete and findings are submitted to the government.
We cannot afford to have such a national disaster again and the guilty must be punished and steps should be in place so that this does not recur.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
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