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Diya Jalao for COVID 19: How Modi put Power Grids and power warriors at risk?

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi's staunch supporters are busy in search of hidden ‘science’ behind the sudden announcement of ‘9minutes9pm’ campaign but his ignorance of the actual science has put the nation in another danger. The scientists and engineers of the power sector throughout the country have been pressed into service on alert mode to avert the imminent crisis and save the Power Grids from the Sunday’s event.

Siddheshwar  ShuklaSiddheshwar Shukla | Updated: 04-04-2020 20:00 IST | Created: 04-04-2020 19:26 IST
Diya Jalao for COVID 19: How Modi put Power Grids and power warriors at risk?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (File Photo) Image Credit: ANI

The way social media has been deluged with 'hidden science' behind the 'Diya Jalao' call of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi (#9pm9minutes), it seems the online army was already put on standby. However, the real scientists were caught off the guard.

'Switch off your lights for 9 minutes at 9 pm on Sunday'. This sentence of Modi's video message came as a shock for electrical scientists and engineers of the country working in power production and transmission services. They had to convene emergency meetings and develop a comprehensive crisis management plan to save the country from another simultaneous disaster – failure of the Power Grids. The Power Grids are controlled by the Central Government through two PSUs - Power System Operation Corporation Limited (PSOCL) and Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL). They manage the high voltage transmission network throughout the country from power generating units to state-level receiving stations. As the event is pan-India, the entire high voltage electricity transmission network in the country – State Power Grids, Regional Power Grids, and National Power Grids – have come under huge risk.

"On the above occasion it is estimated that, in case of switching off lights in Uttar Pradesh (while the whole country would also be doing the same activity), approximately 3000 MW sharp load reduction phenomena may occur in the State in a very little duration of time," said a circular issued on April 3 by Ram Swarath, Director, SLDC (State Load Dispatch Center), Uttar Pradesh, the most populated state of India. "Reduction of the above-mentioned load may also cause a high voltage surge in the UP Power Grid. The above said high voltage condition may be induced because of the similar phenomenon occurring in the whole country including PGCIL, network," warned the official to all his colleagues and senior administrative officers of the state. Similar warnings are also issued by senior officers of all the state SLDCs. The electricity produced at various power generating stations is transmitted by PGCIL to SLDCs for distribution to consumers – domestic, commercial and industrial, etc. A sudden switch-off of lights throughout the country will reduce the electricity demand up to the extent that, if not managed, the whole high voltage transmission network of the PGCIL will collapse within a few seconds. The management of such a reduced load will also require to reduce electricity production which is already low due to lockdown.

How dangerous is this crisis?

You may have seen doctors and police personnel fighting against COVID 19 to save human lives. However, there is an invisible army fighting against the invisible enemy (COVID 19). They are electric engineers and scientists of the country engaged in production and transmission of electricity from power generating stations to the hospital and to your home.

If there is no electricity even for ten minutes in the whole country, you can't imagine the number of patients dying in front of doctors. This is the importance of power warriors working behind the scene. We pray this will never happen, however, if the Power Grids Collapse, the country will be in dark, probably for hours. The loss to the nation will be unimaginable.

Some are wrongly comparing it with Earth Hour. It is pertinent to mention that during earth hour (8.30 pm to 9.30 pm) only the lights are switched off by some of us but industries, factories, trains, airports, commercial, agriculture and all the essential services are operational. However, all these industries and services are already shut down due to national lockdown till April 14. According to the officials of the PGCIL, agriculture and industry account for 59 per cent of power demand while domestic consumption has a share of 33 per cent. Though the Central government has not provided any data of a decrease in power consumption due to lockdown, the reports suggest about 25 per cent slump in power consumption was recorded on March 26. In this situation, the power transmission and distribution network is already under strain due to COVID 19 pandemic.

The call of the Prime Minister, though voluntarily, to switch off the lights for 9 minutes at 9 pm on Sunday, April 5 will be an additional burden to already strained transmission network.

Crisis in Numbers

Given the number of his blind followers, according to estimates released by Power System Operation Corporation Limited (PSOCL), there will be about 12,879 MW dip in power demand for the 9 minutes' duration. The sudden fall and rise in demand with 9-minute duration is unprecedented in the history of PSOCL.

According to the advisory issued by the PSOCL on April 4, the reduction in power demand by PM's call of switching the lights for 'Diya Jalao' will affect all the five Regional Power Grids of the country. The power consumption will be suddenly dropping by 3436 MW in Northern Grid, 3686 MW in Western, 2660 MW in Southern, 2511 MW in Eastern 2511 and 587 MW North Eastern Grid. "From the above methods, it is inferred that total domestic lighting load reduction on all India level is anticipated to the tune of 12-13 GW," said the advisory.

Crisis Management: Power Warriors Strained

"Unlike normal operation, this reduction in load of the order of 12-13 GW would happen in 2 to 4 minutes and recover 9 minutes later within 2 to 4 minutes. This sharp reduction in load and recovery, which is unprecedented, will need to be handled through hydro and gas resources identified and closed," said the advisory of PSOCL. The agency has asked several hydro and gas power stations in the country to stop power production in the given period. Besides, a second to second comprehensive crisis management plan has been circulated to all the states and power generating stations throughout the country. It includes power generation scheduling and frequency control, voltage control measures, and general guidelines.

Due to this event announcement, the agency was compelled to ask all the power stations and transmission network stations to synchronize clocks with IST and follow second to the second pre-determined time schedule to handle the sudden decrease and increase of load on transmission network due to sudden fall and rise in power consumption. "Since COVID 19 containment measures implemented on the lockdown was implemented from March 25, about 220-240 lines of 400 KV level and above are kept in an open condition for voltage control," said the advisory.

The agency has directed all the senior personnel throughout the country 'to be available at the generating stations, sub-stations, load dispatch centres (LDCs) between 6 pm to 10 pm on March 5, 2020'.

Grid Crisis: PM's invited crisis

This is completely an invited crisis. At a time when people were following the instructions of the Prime Minister to stay in homes, working from homes and working in shifts, there was no use to create a panic in the power sector.

We pray the crisis is managed by the power warriors, but, in any case of the unfortunate incident who will own up the responsibility. The Prime Minister has unfortunately developed a habit of speaking his mind – soliloquy. In this time of crisis, the nation expects him to give up soliloquy and initiate dialogues with all the stakeholders before announcing any measures. There is no point to continue with his call of 'Diya Jalao' if the system is going to face so much stress. This is no opportunity for events and risks. The entire nation is with you to fight against COVID 19, please listen to real scientists and call off your campaign.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are the personal views of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)


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