New Delhi: After the two massive power grid failures that left over 600 million people without electricity in 19 states last week, sources say Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has summoned the newly-appointed Power Minister Veerappa Moily to brief him and has asked for a report on the action taken.
Mr Moily will meet the PM sometime this week and is likely to brief him about the resolution passed on Monday by the states for following grid discipline and not overdrawing power from the grid, triggering a collapse, say sources. The crisis was allegedly triggered after three states - Haryana, Punjab and UP - drew much more than their assigned share of power. The Centre had come down sharply on these states saying they overdrew 4000 MW of electricity and that caused the tripping of three grids in a cascade effect last Tuesday. The states deny that their actions triggered the huge power collapse.
Post the severe crisis, power secretary P Umashankar had met the energy secretaries and officials from states to discuss the issue of grid discipline. Meanwhile, Mr Moily discussed the issue with the Chief Ministers of five states including Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttrakhand. After both the meetings, it was decided that the grid code will be strictly adhered to by the states. Moreover, states also resolved to put an adequate defence plan to protect the power grids. The defence plan includes islanding schemes, along with audits by an independent third party to be carried out in three months' time, monitored by the regional power committees.
Dr Singh, sources say, is also worried about the power supplies to essential services such as railways, hospitals, metro rail and airports. The power minister is now likely to brief PM on the 'island system' of power supply, essentially meaning uninterrupted power supplies to essential services. The PM has also asked for a report on the failure from the Power Ministry, sources add. Mr Moily, who is the Minister for Corporate Affairs, was given the additional charge of the power ministry last Tuesday, the day India saw its worst power failure.
The outage happened after three major grids that supply electricity tripped in quick succession; it was one of the world's largest. The outage came just hours after North India recovered from a blackout a day earlier when the Northern supply grid collapsed, delivering seven states and Delhi into darkness. The Northern grid went down again at 1.30 pm, followed by the Eastern Grid and the North Eastern Grid.
The repeat disaster underscores India's abysmal infrastructure and its inability to satiate the needs of a growing population and industry. Power shortages and a road and railway network in desperate need of modernization have weighed heavily on the country's efforts to industrialize. Grappling with the slowest economic growth in nine years, Delhi recently scaled back a target to pump $1 trillion into infrastructure over the next five years.
A grid receives power from generation stations, and passes it onto load centres, which is where distribution companies pick up their share, and pass electricity onto consumers. At grids, there has to be a careful balance between the supply and the amount of power collected. A line can trip if more power is drawn than provisioned for. And a grid needs mechanisms to ensure that if one line trips, it doesn't have a cascading or domino effect on the others.