Tuesday, July 31, 2012

India Goes Powerless Again: Can We Prevent these Disasters?

Powerless again, Northern and Eastern Grid break down

Click the title above to read the MSN news on the power grid failure that paralysed north and east India in the last 48 hours.

In India all electric power generators, small and big, ranging from 1MW to 500 MW or even higher are all connected to the grid through complex electrical switch gears having a high degree of automation.

If the power demand in some part of the grid goes high, the generators supplying power to the grid slows down and the frequency AC power dips from the normal of 50 Hz. To meet the higher load, the steam or water turbines that rotate the alternators have to be fed with more steam or water as the case may be. If this demand for power goes more than their capacities, at some point some alternator slows down to such levels that its safety mechanism isolates it from the grid. This causes a sudden extra power demand burden on the other alternators. The power management system of the grid have to trip some consumer networks to balance the power in the shortest time possible, either automatically or manually. Some times this balancing act is so tricky and shaky that the entire power grid collapses as a result of system fluctuations.

This situation is a nightmarish one for the power engineers who manage the power generation stations.

It takes time for them to bring everything back to normalcy.

These kind of system imbalances also causes much distress not only to the humans but also to the machines. The chances of machine life getting reduced or development of potential failure faults in the machines and power grid switch gears for creating uncalled for failures at a future date increase.

All could have been minimised if Indian authorities had taken some fundamental care in managing their power management systems with respect to the following:

1. Allowing independent power supply systems for specific communities and industries which are not directly connected to the national grid.

2. Reducing political and non-professional decision making in power system management

3. Introducing mandatory professional competency certification for all engineers and technicians working in power system operation, maintenance and management.

4. Creating appropriate standards for power equipment and systems and appropriate mechanisms for quality control management.

5. Creating an appropriate national authority which is statutorily authorized to plan , implement ,supervise  or coordinate all policies , programmes, projects and systems  connected with power generation and distribution at the national level. 

6. Plan and implement systems that make power management simpler to understand and manage 

7. Prevent arbitrary postings and transfers of power management personnel. 

It is not difficult. But the political leadership should have a will, vision and ability to identify competent professional leaders who can do all these.

Just as they did in identifying one such person for a project such as the Delhi Metro, their senses should work in identifying more such professional leaders from the millions, instead of getting pseudo professionals who might be willing to please them.


  1. The world's biggest black-out that paralyzed all sectors including education, health, transport, industries, water supply with severe disruption to the normal life of 670 million all over India. The immediate adverse impact would be on the life of a common man who lives on daily earnings and the long range incidence will be on growth rate to decline with higher inflation.

    1. Your words reflect the anguish of the common people of India. India is potentially rich in everything but ridiculously managed. We should admit that we are a failure in finding those trustworthy and competent people who could take the responsibility of serving us with good leadership and provide us the best administrative management at all levels.


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