No threat to grid from PM’s lights-out campaign: Power Minister

Ghughuti Bulletin

NEW DELHI: There is no threat to the stability of India’s
electricity grid from Sunday’s 9-minute public blackout and “light-a-diya” call given by Prime Minister
Narendra Modi to show national solidarity in the fight against
coronavirus pandemic, according to power minister R K Singh.

“There is absolutely no threat. A robust protocol has been laid down to maintain grid frequency through the lights-out period. The national grid operator and national despatch centre will co-ordinate with regional and state load despatchers to ensure grid stability,” Singh told TOI on Saturday.

He has been reviewing the steps with executives from national grid operator — POSOCO — and PowerGrid, the central utility that builds the grid, since Friday.

Power engineers, too, stepped in by urging consumers to switch on fans for 15 minutes — from 8.55pm to 9.10pm — to make up for the lost load from lights.

The government also issued a statement saying a robust system was in place and apprehensions over grid safety were unfounded.

On March 24, TOI had first reported about national grid operator, POSOCO, putting in a special protocol to ensure grid stability after demand dropped as the lockdown due to
coronavirus pandemic curbed economic activities.

“India’s grid is technologically one of the best in the world and has the advantage of being a ‘one-nation-one-grid’ under a single controller. There are isolators and islanding mechanisms in the system. We have ‘flexibalised’ — giving flexibility to — thermal plants, at least NTPC has tried it, to operate at a lower threshold of 55%. We also can switch on hydel units quickly to meet any surge. Eleven renewable energy management centres and static precipitators are there to deal with the intermittency of renewables,” Singh said.

Households account for 33% of the total demand. The lights-out is expected to remove up to 15 GW (giga watt) of demand, or less than 4%, of the country’s total installed capacity. Such loss of demand like on
Earth Day is easily handled in normal circumstances, when industrial and agricultural load, making up 59% of consumption, remains intact. But in the current situation, when power demand has dropped 25% due to the lockdown, loss of domestic load needs additional measures, industry sources said.

Officials said the discoms may begin to shed load in a staggered way an hour before the Zero Hour to help thermal plants reduce output. Some plants have been advised to taper operations to their lowest threshold so that they can be switched off, if the need arises. Hydel plants have been put on standby and will be cranked up once demand surges. The grid frequency will be kept on the lower side in the run-up to allow headroom once demand begins to fall.

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