India's in the dark, are we next?

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21 Responses to “India's in the dark, are we next?”

  1. CSBD says:

    It sucks for them… especially the ones who live in higher elevations that are colder.  At least in the south, they wont freeze to death.

    From what I have read/heard so far, their grid is old and not managed well. More than 50% of the generated power (not enough created for demand) is lost en route to the “customers” due to poor infrastructure and theft.
    Too much draw on the grid has been causing brown outs for awhile now but the demand got too high this time and the cascade from blown substations took out most of the grid.

    Hopefully this will lead to some thinking about gov funded LED lights, solar cells on every roof and some common sense… I doubt it though.

  2. hooeezit says:

    I’m in the dark in India right now. I grew up in one of the poorest states with the least developed infrastructure. Power-cuts were the norm. The longest I remember being without power was 3 weeks (yes, weeks). The situation has improved significantly in my home province since then, but things are still way behind the times. The expectations of India as a world economic power are just lofty dreams. I was in Minneapolis for 11 years before coming back to India for about a year. What I’m seeing with my acquired western perspective is shocking.
    I’m back in Minneapolis in October, so if you want to hear stories of India, I’ll be happy to oblige :) Did you ever end up having that Boing Boing Meetup at the Sea Salt Eatery?

    • We have done two BoingBoing meetups in Minneapolis … one at Sea Salt and one at a reader’s house for the Powderhorn Art Sled competition. I made it to the first, but had to skip the second due to stomach death flu. 

      Hopefully, we can set something up again soon. My ability to organize is largely determined by how on top of my other stuff I am. 

    • srose278 says:

       Out of genuine curiosity, how are you posting online if the power grid where you are is down?

      • Mandar Harshe says:

        Most likely 3G internet on a cell phone (?). Works pretty ok in many parts of the country.

        • hooeezit says:

           Yup. 3G. I was afraid that would start going down as well. Most urban cellular towers only have a few hours of backup power. But power got restored fast enough that the cellular network wasn’t visibly affected. My landline DSL is still down, somehow, even though I have utility power back.

  3.  Aging power infrastructure is a problem pretty much everywhere these days.   We’ll see a lot more blackouts like this in years to come.

    • Magnus Redin says:

      Its ok in Sweden. The reinvestment levels are higher then the wear and there is a high tension line investment boom to handle more nuclear power, way more wind power and more power trade with our neighbours.  It is however quite expensive, about half of the total industrial investments are upratings and renovations of nuclear and hydro power plants, new combined heat and power plants, wind turbines, new transmission lines and reinvestment of rural grids.

      The ongoing investments to keep the electricity reliable for the long term is on the order of five hundred dollars per person and year.

      There  seems to be at least the same level of ongoing investments in Finland, Norway and Denmark.

      (And while I am typing this there is TV news about Vattenfall starting to plan for one or  two new nuclear reactors, wohoo! I realy hope we will continue to invest in nuclear power and renewbels in parallell and replace the old uprated nuclear powerplants with new ones. )

  4. Shashwath T.R. says:

    Turns out that this is because of heavy unscheduled draw from the state electricity boards. More supply couldn’t be brought online in time, and that tripped something in Agra. That again made the rest of the power plants disconnect from the grid (because the load went down), and then restarting the whole system took time.

    Then, it happened again, with the states drawing like crazy again!

    Seems like it’s largely a regulatory problem – if the states had stuck to the schedule, or if the grid operators could have rejected the unscheduled draw, it would probably have stayed up.

    Looks like it’s coming back up again, according to PowerGrid – North is 70% back, NE is 100% and East is 50%.

    Apparently it was utter chaos up there – hospitals on emergency power, dozens of 300 trains stalled in the middle of nowhere, airports not functioning, and bizarrely, hours of traffic jam in Delhi!

    EDIT: That’s 300 trains, not mere dozens. And here’s the scale of India – that’s three hundred thousand passengers! It’s not as simple as people think!

  5. CSBD says:

    According to CNN, a second bigger blackout just happened in India!

    • hooeezit says:

       Today’s blackout _was_ the 2nd blackout. There was another blackout in northern India yesterday that affected about 300 million people.

  6. BombBlastLightingWaltz says:

    Just heard your broadcast. Interesting point about the power grid in India being tapped into (illegally) and causing problems with regulating consumption to prevent blow outs. 670 million people, half the country, whistles. That’s a lot of tapping. 

    • hooeezit says:

       Well, you can’t technically tap the power ‘grid’ illegally. You’ll fry to ash if you tried :) You can tap your local 220V supply lines illegally of course, and that’s pretty rampant.
      The problem wasn’t exactly that. People have been tapping forever. The problem was with the distribution system in the grid. They don’t have good measurement and throttling mechanisms. In most of India, the local utility is a State government controlled entity, and they are incredibly inefficient. Most of India is stuck in the 60′s and 70′s so far as distribution hardware is concerned. The State Electricity Boards are the consumers of the Grid, and there isn’t any real-time monitoring of consumption per state – there seems to be only overall consumption and load balancing mechanisms available. So, one state can keep drawing excess power for a month before someone notices when they tally up the numbers for that month.

      Like most problems we face, the solution isn’t at the level of the problem itself, the way the conversation is headed today. The true solution is to actually modernize the grid and add monitoring and isolation hardware. But planning seldom gets done and rarely gets implemented in India. So, nothing is going to change practically as a result of this failure.

      • Shashwath T.R. says:

        …there isn’t any real-time monitoring of consumption per state – there seems to be only overall consumption and load balancing mechanisms available. So, one state can keep drawing excess power for a month before someone notices when they tally up the numbers for that month.

        I dunno… At least the Southern grid seems to have stuff on a daily basis…

        And they’ve been putting out hourly overalls on PowerGrid’s site.

        Northern Grid seems to not exist, however. I guess they’ve got bigger problems to solve!

      • Shashwath T.R. says:

        Like most problems we face, the solution isn’t at the level of the problem itself, the way the conversation is headed today. The true solution is to actually modernize the grid and add monitoring and isolation hardware. But planning seldom gets done and rarely gets implemented in India. So, nothing is going to change practically as a result of this failure.

        I doubt that anything can change at the rate you’re expecting – especially as a result of this outage. Especially since this seems to be symptomatic, and not a watershed event by itself.

        The problem seems to have been indiscipline on the consumer (state EBs) side, more than anything else. Specifically, UP EB has been drawing at something like 22% over limits for a long time! If POSOCO and PGCIL had the authority to block the UP EB’s draw, this would never have escalated this far. At worst, UP would have had a minor blackout. This indicates a regulatory change is required immediately. Grid modernization can, and will, happen over time.

        • sdgdfh says:

          I don’t think that monitoring is a problem. There are real time monitoring mechanisms available. There are 5 regional grids each is monitored by its own regional load dispatch center (RLDC) thn you have State LDCs and the National LDC. In fact many LDCs websites  have their real time data online.

          Over drawl is not such a bad thing because  at any point of time there are States which overdraw and others which under draw. It helps in maintaining grid stability…otherwise you have to back down generation which is not desirable. The problem is when overdrawal occurs at low frequency. Similarly underdrawal at high frequency is also undesirable. To address this issue there is Availability Based Tariff wherein you are penalized if you under draw at high frequency or overdraw at low frequency. There are also incentives if you do the opposite. Also grid congestion notices are routinely issued to defaulting states who then act on these by carrying out Distress load shedding in their jurisdiction. You cannot stop a state from overdrawal by blocking whatever that means in this context without shutting out all of it supply.  you could use under frequency relays, but they would not have worked here since frequency was normal before the fault condition. Now places like Delhi also overdraw, you cannot shut the supply to Delhi can you?? Most you can do is to put the SEB on notice to reduce their demand.

          In this case as per the preliminary report at least it seems the UP was overdrawing excessively from the grid.

          The highest transmission voltage in India is 400 KV. Up gradation to 765 kv network is still under progress. When you operate a 765 KV line at 400 KV its power transfer capacity reduces to almost 1/3 rd. So if the line was rated to carry 2250 MW @ 765 KV ..it can only carry 691 MW@400 KV. Most new transmission lines in india are built using the 765 KV conductor but operated at 400 KV.

           As per the report 400 KV the Bina Gwalior Agra line which connects WR to the NR has two circuits. One of the circuits was under forced outage for 765 KV up gradation.  The other circuit was operating at 400 KV. this line was carrying 1000 MW, much higher than its stability limit of 691 MW. The RLDCs must have surely sent out notices to reduce demand. It may be that their directives were not followed in time to stop the cascade. There may be many other reasons like improper relay operations which will come out after the detailed report. Of course there is serious lack of transmission capacity in India. and with  Open access the situation is not at all good.

  7. SoItBegins says:

    In case anyone is wondering, I researched the NE US power failure 9 years ago. A large portion of the blame for that one goes to a computer bug that halted the sending of alarms to the central power station staff. They found out that everything was going all to hell when the staff of substations called them on the phone and let them know.

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