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Low power demand exposes risk of blackout

(27 Mar 2020)

The three-week nationwide lockdown has resulted in low electricity demand, but a sudden change in grid frequency could lead to a power blackout, according to government officials.

Grid frequency is a critical aspect of power system operations, with global standards requiring that grid frequency be kept close to 50 hertz (Hz). Any sudden change in demand pattern impacts the grid frequency.

India’s electricity demand was around 100 gigawatts (GW) on Friday morning as compared to the peak electricity demand of about 127.96 GW on 25 March. IThe demand was about 163.73GW on 20 March. India’s peak demand in FY19 was 168.74GW and touched a record high of 176.72GW in April last year.

“We have been able to manage the grid despite a sudden drop of electricity demand because of the lock-down," said a government official requesting anonymity.

It is the job of state run Power System Operation Corp. Ltd (Posoco) that oversees India’s electricity load management functions to maintain grid stability. If unchecked, the result could be a collapse of the power grid.

A grid collapse is the worst-case scenario for any transmission utility. India faced massive power transmission failures in July 2012, which left around 700 million people without electricity. The issue has assumed greater importance as the country now has an integrated national power grid, with south India joining the national electricity grid in January 2014.

“We have a robust system and have done our best to manage the grid," said the government official cited above.

While India’s peak electricity demand has come down with commercial and industrial power demand taking a hit after many factories shut down, domestic consumption that accounts for around a quarter of India’s power demand has gone up. Of India’s total electricity demand load pattern, industrial and agricultural consumption accounts for 41.16% and 17.69%, respectively. Commercial electricity consumption accounts for 8.24% of demand.

This comes in the backdrop of a slowing economy. Energy consumption, especially electricity and refinery products, is usually linked to overall demand in the economy. Transportation fuel demand has come down with citizens cooped indoors, though there has been an increase in the demand for domestic cooking gas against the backdrop of the three-week nationwide lockdown in the world’s largest such exercise aimed at stemming the spread of the virus.

“The governments of India (Baa2 negative) and South Africa (Baa3 negative) have announced 21-day lockdowns. We expect these measures to dampen economic growth in both countries this year," Moody's Investors Service wrote in a report.

“For India, we are now projecting growth rates of 2.5% in 2020 followed by 5.8% next year," the Moody’s report said and added, “In India, credit flow to the economy already remains severely hampered because of severe liquidity constraints in the bank and non-bank financial sectors."

With India having an installed power generation capacity of 368.69GW, the national grid is capable of transferring 99,000 mega watts (MW) of electricity from any corner of the country. There are five regional grids in India—northern, southern, eastern, north-eastern, and western.

India’s per capita power consumption, about 1149 kilowatt-hour (kWh), is among the lowest in the world. In comparison, the world’s per capita consumption is 3600 kWh.

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News Source : Live Mint

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