Coronavirus outbreak: 'Lights-off' poses challenge to national power network

Updated: Apr 04, 2020, 07:18 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

PM's appeal sends power sector into overdrive, as any sudden drop or spike in demand could damage the one-nation-one-grid infrastructure

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's lights-off idea sent the power sector in over drive on Friday, to have a plan in place to secure the electricity infrastructure when the demand drops or spikes suddenly.

The generation of power and its demand are interlinked, and the two together impact the 'one nation-one grid' wire network which has the entire country in its loop.

A sudden drop or spike in demand can damage the infrastructure that brings electricity to your homes, factories and establishments.

Power struggle

Sources in the sector said PM Modi had a meeting with power ministry officials, who in turn sensitised state governments. By Friday afternoon, five regional load despatch centres and National Load Despatch Centre, under the control of Power System Operation Corporation Limited (POSOCO) started working out a plan for April 5 night peak hours. The Mumbai's Western Regional Load Despatch Centre which handles Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli also sprung into action.

Experts mid-day talked to said the shutdown would be easy to manage, primarily because the date and time was known to them. "The technology in generation and distribution is very advanced. We can reduce or increase generation in seconds to maintain the grid frequency and safe voltage. The estimates of reduction in demand are being drawn, and I think we have adequate data of the lockdown period to understand it," an expert said, adding that the national demand had dropped by over 30% since the lockdown began.

'Don't see dangerous drop'

Mukund Sundakar, a senior technocrat who has worked with several Indian and multinational power generation companies, told mid-day that the possibility of tripping of power was rare, because there would be demand even when people light diyas and candles. "People will use fans, air-conditioners, refrigerators and other domestic appliances which consume more than half of a family's monthly electricity requirement. Illuminations like LED lights don't consume much power. So, I don't see any dangerous drop that may compromise our system," he said.

Light lamps or candles on April 5. File pic for representation
Light lamps or candles on April 5. File pic for representation

He said since all people would not switch off the loads at the same moment, the load frequency control device would govern automatically the rise in frequency. 'The response time of the production and distribution programmes is in seconds. They act promptly and balance the grid in a frequency variation from 49Hz to 51Hz," he said.

'Nothing to worry'

According to a Maharashtra Load Despatch Centre official, the state's overall demand has dropped by 7,000MW. "Over 50% generation sets of government and private producers are shut. We have ways to calculate the demand during the nine minutes on the night of April 5. There's nothing to worry about," he said.

Another expert said the country's demand may see a fluctuation of 10,000-12,000 MW in 15 minutes. "The demand will start reducing from 8.50 pm and resume the earlier load latest by 9.20 pm. Since most power will be from thermal generators, the ramp down and ramp up procedures will be a difficult task," he said. The load managers don't expect the entire population to follow the PM's appeal. In addition to this, essential services like hospitals and sensitive installations would continue to consume their usual peak-hour load.

Action plan for April 5

  • Staggered power cuts to be enforced, one hour before the light switch off time
  • Hydro electric stations will reduce generation as per immediate instructions
  • All reactors in the generation facility will be kept in service mode
  • Capacitors banks will be kept out of service

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