Energy minister Nitin Raut Saturday said residents should participate in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Diya Jalao’ campaign and light a candles or flash torch or mobile light for a few minutes Sunday, but refrain from switching off all house lights.
Raut said switching off lights simultaneously could lead to a multi-state grid collapse and blackout in the state and even the entire country. He directed the state power companies to ensure that health and emergency services remain unaffected Sunday night when the Prime Minister has appealed people to switch off lights at home for a few minutes.
“If everyone switches off light at the same time, it will lead to a sudden drop in demand. Due to the present situation, there is already a demand-supply mismatch. Switching off lights Sunday may deteriorate the situation further and cause the state and central grid to fail. There is a need to reconsider the decision and I request people to light lamps and candles without switching off electricity,” Raut said in a video message.
The PM on Friday urged people to switch off lights at home and light lamps, candles or switch on mobile phone torches for nine minutes at 9 pm on Sunday to display the country’s “collective resolve” to defeat coronavirus.
Raut told The Sunday Express that due to the nationwide lockdown, power demand in Maharashtra had come down from 23,000 mega watts to 13,000 MW. “Due to the lockdown, the industrial load is zero. The 13,000 MW is consumed largely by the emergency services and residential areas. If everyone switches off house lights together, then the grid can fail and power stations trip. If states, like Maharashtra, which have a high power demand suffer grid failure, it will lead to a multi-state grid failure and further throw the entire country into darkness,” Raut said.
It takes a minimum of 16 hours to restore a power supply if a station witnesses failure, Raut claimed. “It would take a whole week to restore normalcy across the country.”
“My officers sounded me out saying that a sudden drop of demand, caused by a such a power switch off, does lead to tripping. This has been borne out by the fact that the PM convened an emergency meeting of power ministers of all the states after my video went viral. He personally spoke to me during the meeting. The central government has now issued a notification in this regard about how to restore power supply in the event of tripping of power supply,” he said.
Raut said Union power minister R K Singh also called him Saturday afternoon. “Singh said the Centre has taken my objection seriously and was now directing states to ensure that all electrical home appliances remain functional during the nine-minute period. The minister said they are issuing directives to all the states in this regard,” Raut said.
Raut said the state would depend on hydro-power plants to take the load when people of the state switch back their house lights. “We are going to arrange for 2,845 MW power from our hydro- electric power stations enough to meet the requirement of the state during night. All states will be depending on their hydro-power to keep the supply on after the nine minutes when lights are switch off as hydro-electric power stations can be immediately switched on, unlike thermal units that take 16 hours to restore,” Raut said.
The MSLDC confirmed it would rely on power generated from Koyna Hydroelectric station for grid management and ensuring supply of power to the state in case things get out of hand. Officials claim it will take over two hours for the entire system to stabilise in case of the nine-minute shut down and has asked all its officials to be vigilant.
Maharashtra State Load Despatch Centre chief engineer Anil Kolap has stated that the switching off lights will lead to a sudden drop in demand of 1,700-1,750 MW that will cause an increase in system frequency during the drop in demand.
The BJP, meanwhile, has said that the state has the expertise and resources to handle the event without causing problems to the grid.
“We have previously witnessed incidents where Maharashtra has seen a 2,500 MW back down of power plants. We have the expertise to handle such cases…The consumption of light bulbs is only 10 per cent of the total electricity demand. Shutting them off for nine minutes will only lead to a back down of 1,200 MW and our system can handle this,” former energy minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule said.
Meanwhile, in a statement Saturday evening, Raut said, “Who does what, who lights lamp and who switches it off doesn’t bother me, but it bothers me when the PM does so only to hoodwink the masses on the issue of coronavirus to hide his failure to address the issue… (The) power sector was incurring huge losses due to decreasing demands in industrial sector which had caused anxiety among all the state governments irrespective of their political affiliations. During such grim situation, asking people to switch off the lamps would definitely aggravate the sufferings of power sector.”
With inputs from Vivek Deshpande, Nagpur, Manoj More, Pune, and Zeeshan Shaikh, Mumbai
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