Coronavirus lockdown: With a dip of 30% in demand for power due to the absence of commercial activity in the wake of the lockdown, a sudden change in grid frequency could lead to a potential power blackout.
Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to switch off lights, on April 5, at 9 pm, for nine minutes, the Union power ministry, on Friday, held a high-level review meeting to assess the impact of power fluctuation on the grid. The grid is already reeling under the stress of an unprecedented dip in demand during the lockdown period.
The meeting was chaired by Union power minister RK Singh and senior officials from Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) and grid operator POSOCO National Load Despatch Centre, according to two officials aware of the proceedings of the meeting.
“ The minister discussed the issue with PGCIL and load dispatcher in the meeting. Since we are in an unprecedented situation with low demand during the lockdown, we are closely monitoring the health of the grid. They have said they are confident of managing the grid stability for the event and have been told to ensure blackout doesn’t occur,” a senior official said requesting anonymity.
With a dip of 30% in demand for power due to the absence of commercial activity in the wake of the lockdown, a sudden change in grid frequency could lead to a potential power blackout. According to power ministry data available for April 2, peak demand stood at 125.8 GW which is 25% lower than 168.3 GW for the same day last year.
Experts too warned about the possibly adverse impact of millions of households switching off and then switching on, lights on Sunday night almost simultaneously.
“This is absolutely unprecedented. If this is effectively implemented, then we are looking at an impact of 10-15GW of load going down and coming back again which will have a very severe impact on the grid. I am not aware of any event before leading to such a sharp fluctuation before,” said Vinay Rustagi, managing director at renewable energy consultancy Bridge to India Energy Private Limited. This, Rustagi emphasised, will need careful management and pre-planning. “They will have to judicially use hydro and gas power plants to come back and curtail risk.”
But power ministry officials said they were confident of managing the situation on Sunday night.
“We are making arrangements since the event is known to us in advance. The current peak load of the country stands at around 120GW; of this domestic household lighting comprises 12-15 GW and we will need to manage and monitor this 15GW of fluctuation,” a second government official said.
With the sudden dip in demand the Centre last week had announced a slew of measures to aid the power sector during the lockdown period. These measures include a three-month moratorium on the payment of already financially squeezed distribution companies (Discoms) to Generating Companies (Gencos) and no penalty on late payment.