New Delhi: The government is stepping up security cover at its power stations after it was alerted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) that the country’s power infrastructure could be the next target of terrorists looking to cripple India’s economy.
A similar objective is seen to have been behind the November terror attacks in Mumbai believed to have been orchestrated by Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba that left at least 183 dead.
IB has warned the power ministry that the same group could target substations and regional load dispatch centres (RLDCs), both key components in the country’s power network.
“We have decided to provide security cover from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to all our RLDCs and substations,” said a top Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd (PGCIL) executive, who didn’t want to be identified, but confirmed IB’s warning to the power ministry. “Earlier, the CISF cover was only at the Northern Regional Load Dispatch Centre in Delhi.”
The move will likely increase the cost of power, although the magnitude of this increase couldn’t immediately be ascertained.
Jairam Ramesh, minister of state for power, said the warning was merely reiteration of a known vulnerability. “One does not require the IB to tell us that we are vulnerable... We need to enhance security across our installations.”
PGCIL manages power transmission across the country, and owns and operates around 61,875km of transmission lines. RLDCs under PGCIL are responsible for maintaining grid discipline, and supervising optimum scheduling and dispatch of electricity in their regions.
Five RLDCs manage the regional grids: the northern, eastern, north-eastern, western and southern regions.
Substations are an important part of the electricity network and play a critical role in the generation, transmission and distribution system. They increase or decrease the electricity voltage for transmission and distribution purposes. The major 116 substations that are responsible for the flow of power across state borders fall under the purview of PGCIL.
If a grid collapses, states connected to it will have to go without power.
“Apart from PGCIL, all the public sector units under the ministry have also been alerted. The terrorists’ idea is to cripple the economy because if you blow up substations, power cannot be evacuated (transmitted). In such a situation, it will affect all the sectors,” the PGCIL executive added.
He said PGCIL had discussed details of how to account for the security cover with the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CE-RC), the regulator for the power sector. “It (CERC) suggested that the cost can be passed on as operations and maintenance charges at the time of adoption of tariff.”