In the country’s worst electricity crisis ever, three of the five regional transmission grids collapsed this afternoon. The grid failure threw more than 60 per cent of the country’s population in the dark and left several essential services, including railways, hospitals and water supply, paralysed.
The failure followed a similar crisis in the functioning of transmission lines yesterday and covered the northern, eastern and north-eastern grids that supply electricity to 20 states. The other two grids — western and southern — remained unaffected. While the exact cause of the incident was yet to be ascertained, heavy overdrawing of power from the grid by a few states, including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana, appeared to be the main reason.
The day ended with Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde being moved to the home ministry as part of a Cabinet reshuffle caused by a vacancy in the finance ministry. “Around 3,000 Mw of power has been overdrawn from the eastern grid. Strict action will be taken against the states indulging in overdrawal,” Shinde said earlier in the day.
Responding to speculation that the drawing of power by the government from the eastern grid to handle yesterday’s collapse could have triggered its failure, PowerGrid Chairman R N Nayak said, “Some section of the grid may have tripped, causing a cascading effect of failure in all the three grids.” Asked whether the company could avoid another collapse, Nayak said it had been running the grid for 10 years and, thus, had enough knowledge of the system. At least four major grid failures have occurred over the past decade.
“While there have been instances of such failures in the past, recovery has seldom taken so long. The current recovery is probably hampered by continued high demand and inadequate hydro and gas-based output that act as recovery power in such times,” said Kameswara Rao, leader, energy practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers.