Blackout the result of poor maintenance
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Later in the evening some of the states came back to the unscheduled interchange market (where they buy directly from generating companies instead of through power exchanges) but volumes were minimal.
However, evidence coming in from different agencies shows that overdrawal of states alone may not have been responsible for India's worst ever blackout — that neglect by the Centre may have been as much to blame.
The grid frequency was a healthy 50-plus Hertz at the time of the second blackout on Monday. But two things had happened over an unusually hot summer in northern India to precipitate the crisis.
While the states had refused to reinstate 'under frequency relays (essentially a sort of fuse)' to island themselves if frequency fell or rose beyond a limit, central power utilities like Power Grid Corporation of India had cut its budget for maintenance of grids repeatedly, to keep tariffs low for consumers.
Since all elements in the cost of a unit of power have to be borne by consumers and the UPA government baulked at raising the tariffs, all players in the game cut their costs accordingly.
As of now, the cost of operations and management of the national grid cannot be more than 1.5 per cent of the total tariff for every unit of electricity consumed — an absurdly low figure, said a former chairman of a central power utility. Explaining the impact of no relays, Shakti Sinha, Chairman and MD of Delhi Transco, said it was like driving without brakes. Explaining the collapse, he said: "No state demanded more but all arrived at the market at the same time."
Power Ministry officials acknowledged that the inability of the PGCIL-run load despatch centre to monitor fluctuation in demand was a huge shock. "It happened on a busy day. What were they doing?" an officer said.
Experts like Navroze Dubash, senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, said the two mega blackouts and the crash of electricity prices the next day reflected short-term crisis management issues but the larger issues that remain were the continuous losses being made by the distribution companies and the consequent non-viability of the sector. Principal Adviser, Planning Commission, Pronab Sen, said with many state electricity boards almost bankrupt, tariff revision was essential.
The Centre has convened a special meeting of CMs of eight states on August 6. One of the points on the agenda is to ensure that states do not disable the under frequency relays. But there will be no discussion on how tariffs can be raised, which would allow PGCIL to invest more in maintenance.
Power Minister Veerappa Moily, who took charge Wednesday, said that there would be no repetition of the grid failures.
States deny charge
Punjab: K D Chaudhri, CMD of PSPCL, on Wednesday said the state didn't overdraw. "To clear misgivings about the role of Punjab... at the time of first failure, the frequency of the grid was 50.46 Hz and Punjab was drawing only 5.5 per cent above its schedule whereas Haryana was overdrawing 25.5 per cent and UP 20.8 per cent," Chaudhri said.
Haryana: A Haryana Power Utilities spokesperson on Wednesday said the reports that Haryana had been overdrawing to the extent of 51 per cent were not correct, and the generation and demand were in balance. The frequency at 2.32 am on July 30 was 49.8 Hz and between 12 and 1 pm on July 31 it ranged between 49.92 and 50.27 Hz, he claimed. ENS
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