India dimmed its lights and grid operators held their breath
- Apr 6, 2020 4:23 pm GMT
A show of support for those in India who are coping with the Covid-19 outbreak turned into an all-hands-on-deck event for operators of the nation’s electric power grid.
On April 3, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked citizens to switch off lights across India on April 5 to mark the coronavirus fight. That raised red flags with India’s Power System Operation Corp (POSOCO), which oversees the national power grid. Officials worried that the planned nine-minute drop in demand could lead to blackouts as demand ramped down and then rapidly resumed. As a safeguard, POSOCO ordered senior officials to be present at generating stations, substations and load dispatch centers between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. local time on April 5.
The grid operator also advised engineers to start ramping down baseload plants just before 9 p.m. , the event's planned start time. That baseload capacity was replaced by hydro and gas plants, which are typically used as peaking capacity.
POSOCO forecast consumption to dip by more than 10% and called the expected reduction in load and rapid recovery “unprecedented.”
POSOCO’s parent body, Power Grid Corp of India, asked regional electricity transmission center employees to be on “high alert,” as the lights out plan could “lead to outage of grid elements due to grid constraints.”
India’s Ministry of Power said in a statement that the Indian electricity grid was "robust and stable” and that “adequate arrangements and protocols are in place to handle the variation in demand.”
One journalist tweeted that during the evening event, demand fell from 117,300 megawatts at 8:49 pm to 85,300 MW at 9:09 pm before recovering; a drop of 32,000 MW. The tweet said that voltage frequency was maintained within a band of 49.7 to 50.26 Hz, indicating grid stability during the event.
Around 10 pm Sunday, R.K. Singh, minister of State Power and New and Renewable Energy, confirmed the 32 gigawatt drop in load.
“The drop in national demand by 32,000 megawatts shows a huge response of the nation to the call of the Prime Minister,” he tweeted.
Published reports suggest that electricity demand has already plunged since Modi ordered the nation’s 1.3 billion people to stay indoors to slow the spread of coronavirus. Nitin Raut, the power minister of Maharashtra, a western state which consumes the most electricity in India, was quoted as asking people to light lamps and candles, while keeping electric lights on to support the grid.
“Already the electricity demand and supply equation has been stretched,” Raut said, as reported by the Reuters news agency.