An acute shortage of coal has come to afflict scores of power plants in northern and western India, putting a squeeze on generation and the grids at grave risk. Although the respective load despatch centres in both regions have acted swiftly and issued alert to states against overdrawing power, the industry has turned wary of outages similar to the massive power failure witnessed in the northern and eastern parts of the country during the last two days of July 2012.
Transmission frequency at the northern grid has fallen below the requisite 49.9 hertz stability threshold for considerable periods in recent days, forcing the regional load despatch centre to issue alerts to the distribution companies of the nine states in the region against overdrawals.
According to sources, the Northern Regional Load Despatch Centre on Wednesday sounded the alarm for the state discoms in its region following a spate of thermal power plant closures due to shortage of coal.
Further shutdowns of plants “could result in SOS conditions” as some states have been found to be overdrawing, it said. Against 50,173 MW of peak demand on Wednesday, there was a generation loss of about 5,000 MW in the region. Despite this, some states, especially Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir, are resorting to overdrawals.
The Western Regional Load Despatch Centre (WRLDC) issued a similar warning late on Wednesday saying the regional grid was “severely affected”. The loss of generation capacity is estimated by the centre at 5,843 MW, mainly attributable to coal scarcity.
Sources said seven power generating stations owned by state-owned Maharashtra State Power Generation, Lanco Infratech, Indiabulls and NTPC were among the ones facing a capacity squeeze.
Following the grid collapse in July 2012, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission had narrowed the frequency range to between 49.95 and 50.05 hertz. The regulator also directed the load despatch centres to install automatic demand management systems to avert similar crises in future. There was also a move to penalise the top managements of defaulting discoms at a personal level to ensure grid integrity.
A grid collapse now would have serious implications for the economy, especially since industrial production is beginning to look up after several months of tepidness.
Since June last year, the southern grid, which had been unconnected to the rest of the country, was been integrated to the national grid, and a failure of the transmission network in any