New Delhi : The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), the country’s apex power sector regulator, wants those responsible for India’s worst power outage last year identified and their responsibility fixed, deeming a report on the episode as being inadequate.
The report by the committee headed by A.S. Bakshi, chairman of the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), India’s top power sector planning body, blamed the outage on a dangerous imbalance—too much power being drawn by northern states such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana and too little of it by those in the west.
CERC wants to know whether this was a “wilful or inadvertent incident”, said its chairman Pramod Deo.
Load management functions are overseen by the state-owned Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd and carried out by its subsidiary Power System Operation Corp. Ltd (Posoco).
CERC has “directed Posoco (NLDC) to file within two weeks the details of violations, the entities/organizations responsible for such violation with particular reference to the regulation of the Commission which has been violated”. NLDC stands for national load despatch centre.
India’s worst blackout left nearly 620 million people without electricity. On 31 July, the northern grid collapsed, and on 1 August, in a wider blackout, the northern, eastern and north-eastern grids broke down.
“I have not seen a failure as massive as this... We had asked all the players that you have given a report but you tell us that who was at fault,” Deo said. “We want to get into that... We are asking each party who is responsible... You can’t just say in (the) report that everything is fine... Where is the fixing of responsibility?”
The CERC is currently hearing a petition on the grid disturbance. The next hearing is scheduled for 10 January. A grid collapse is the worst-case scenario for any transmission utility.
When this happens, states that draw power from that particular network go without electricity. India has five regional grids—the northern, southern, eastern, north-eastern and western grids. All except the southern one are connected.
“Anyone who knows about the power sector wouldn’t be convinced with the report,” said V. Ramakrishna, former CEA member. “One needs to go to the cause of the failure. It must be a learning experience as we will be having a national grid. It brought international shame. It should be analysed for remedial action.”
Deo said the inquiry should help India avoid a repeat.
“More than fixing responsibility, we want to understand what is wrong with our regulation in the grid code,” he said. “If the grid code can’t take care of it or if there are difficulties in implementation, do we need to make any changes?”
The committee had also stated that with one of the two paths of the Agra-Bina-Gwalior transmission link being under a planned shutdown, the variation in electricity demand led to a dip in the voltage. This dip in voltage, in turn, tripped the critical transmission link and led to a domino effect, tripping other links.
While Bakshi didn’t respond to phone calls or to a message left on his cellphone, Posoco CEO S.K. Soonee said, “CERC wants to fix responsibility and has asked us to prepare a list about who was violating what. We are preparing the list.”
This comes in the backdrop of CERC’s plan to impose penalties on CEOs of power distributors that withdraw more than their allotted share of electricity.
“Their common argument was that as an individual functionary they had taken steps but they were over-ruled by their superiors or there were certain circumstances where they were helpless,” Deo said. “They were trying to say that there was no wilful contravention. We have to decide upon that. We have to come out with an order.”
While there is a penalty for overdrawing power from the transmission grid, known as an unscheduled interchange (UI), states prefer to pay this because it’s cheaper to do so than to buy power in the spot market. Besides, it’s imposed on utilities and not on officials.
“Some of the state load despatch centres (SLDCs) act as if they are a part of the state governments,” Deo said.
Regional load despatch centres (RLDCs) are responsible for maintaining grid discipline and supervising optimum scheduling and delivery of electricity in their regions, and function under Posoco. The country has 33 SLDCs, five RLDCs—for the five regional grids—and one NLDC.