The electricity grid in the northern region collapsed suddenly this morning. More than 300 million people were affected by the consequent outage, as essential services, including the railways and hospitals, came to a standstill.
It was a disaster waiting to happen, as excessive power being drawn by states from the grid was a time bomb ticking for more than a year. Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh continued to draw more than the scheduled quantum of power from the system, jeopardising grid security. The states ignored multiple warnings issued over the past year by the electricity regulator and violated the Indian Electricity Grid Code, according to sources.
“These states have lost all fear. They overdraw from the grid to avoid buying costly power from the market,” a member of the three-member panel set up by the government today to probe the matter told Business Standard. Asked whether the penalty imposed by the electricity regulator was not enough to deter the states, he said, “These states find it cheaper to procure power from the grid even after paying the penalty.”
A grid failure refers to the automatic tripping of power, often caused by excessive power being drawn. That has a cascading impact on the entire supply to the region. India’s overall electricity grid is a complex web of inter-state and inter-regional power transmission wires. Broadly, the grid is divided into the Northern-Eastern-Western grid and the Southern grid. The national grid has a capacity to transmit around 95,000 Milli Volt Ampere (MvA) of power annually. The northern region alone accounts for 30 per cent of this capacity. It supplies power to Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, J&K, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
In a hurried press conference on the crisis, Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said a grid failure so huge had last occurred 10 years ago. He said the probe panel headed by Central Electricity Authority Chairman A S Bakshi would submit its report within 15 days. Power Grid Chairman R N Nayak and Power System Operation Corporation CEO
S K Soonee are the other two members. Experts said it was time to act against the errant states and not probe the matter.
Shinde said the government had injected more than 8,200 Mw of power into the northern grid by procuring power from the eastern and western grids. “More than 60 per cent of the power was restored by 8:30 am,” Shinde said. Nayak later told news agency PTI, “We have completely restored the northern grid.”