India, recovering from its worst-ever power outage, has been smarting over the promotion of Sushil Kumar Shinde from the Power to the Home Ministry. Mr Shinde today told NDTV he rates himself as an excellent power minister.
But for those outraged by the timing or the merit of that declaration, here's a bigger point of concern. A senior official at the Power Ministry told NDTV a repeat cannot be ruled out, partly because the cause of the problem has not been identified.
On Tuesday, 19 states and more than 600 million people spent hours without electricity in the world's biggest blackout. Mr Shinde, who took over as Home Minister said today, "While America takes upto four hours to get grids back up and running, we did it in a few hours." Veerappa Moily, the Law Minister who has been given additional charge of Power said, "Our grid is the best in Asia" and said a national blackout will be guarded through new processes.
The power outages are reportedly the result of northern states like UP, Punjab and Haryana drawing more than their allotted share from supply grids (the states have denied the charge). Monday's blackout, which hit seven states, Delhi and 30 million people, was the result of a collapse of the
The Power Ministry has written to all state electricity boards warning that "grid discipline" must be maintained at all times. The letter is signed by Ram Naik, Chairman of the Power Grid.
Experts say that blaming the power outages on over-drawn power is too simplistic. There are enough mechanisms, they say, to protect grids from malfunctioning when quotas are exceeded, a common practice among Northern states during the summer. Experts will now try to test supply grids by simulating the sort of circumstances and load that existed during the two blackouts this week.
The Northern power grid has been strained this summer as a weak monsoon meant farmers used pumps extensively to water their fields. But the dual blackouts this week also highlight the growing gap between the demand and supply of power. More than half of India's power is generated using coal. Many plants are not able to deliver the sort of power they're capable of generating because of a shortage of coal.
The Power Ministry says the main regulator -the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission or CERC - is ineffective. The CERC is in charge of policy, pricing and supply. Since April year, the ministry has reportedly sent four petitions or complaints against states who were not following guidelines. The regulator did not respond. So though the CERC is empowered to impose stiff penalties on states that over-draw power, in reality, this is rarely enforced. Even after yesterday's crisis, the regulator has summoned officials from UP and Haryana to explain why they violated the guidelines. No punitive measures have been suggested so far.