New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the countrymen to switch off the lights of their homes for nine minutes at 9 pm on Sunday. PM Modi said that by turning off the house light at 9 pm on April 5, light a candle, lamp or flash light on the door of the house. He said that on this Sunday we have to give the message that we are all one. This appeal of PM Modi has created a crisis in front of the power companies.
If 130 crore countrymen turn off the power simultaneously and turn on simultaneously after nine minutes, there may be a risk of blackout in the country. However, power companies have started preparations for PM Modi’s nine-minute challenge.
According to the report, a senior executive of the power sector says that a nine-minute power cut can be understood in this way, it is like putting a sudden fast brake in a moving car and then giving a quick accelerator. It is difficult to predict how the car will actually behave. It is a prediction, but much more complex and we are all facing it.
According to power industry officials, he has two days to plan those nine minutes. This is a challenge, and something unprecedented. But it is possible. To clearly understand the nine-minute challenge it is necessary to know how the electric field functions.
How do we get electricity?
Electricity reaches our home in three ways. The first is the power generators such as Tata Power and NTPC, the second is the distribution companies of each state and the third is the State Load Despatch Center or SLDC, which plays an important role in supply with demand for electricity. According to Gopal Jain, senior advocate of the Supreme Court, the electricity supply is divided into 96 blocks of 15 minutes each in a day.
SLDC prepares demand and supply schedules for blocks in each state. If PM Modi had appealed to shut down the electricity for a full 15 minutes, then a block of 15 minutes would have been closed, but it has emerged as a challenge of nine minutes.
At the same time, Sitesh Mukherjee, a lawyer specializing in infrastructure regulator, said that it is a highly automated and scientific process.
He said that SLDC has a very important role. This is to ensure that the frequency of power running in the power grid lines should be between 48.5 and 51.5 Hz. If it becomes too high (when the supply is too high) or too low (when the demand exceeds the limit), the lines can be cut which can cause a power crisis across the country. The world’s biggest blackout happened in 2012 when tripping occurred due to sudden demand and electricity was lost to the homes of nearly 600 million Indians.
Darkness can occur across the country
On April 5, if all Indians turn off the power at nine o’clock at night, the power supply may be cut and there may be darkness across the country. But, senior engineers in the region say that this can be handled as they have time to plan. India gets electricity from various sources like thermal, hydel, gas, wind and solar.
An engineer said, solar does not occur at night. The air is continuous and cannot be stopped. But it is possible to completely close the hydel and gas plant. And restarting a hydel or gas plant is not a difficult task. But this is not the case with thermal plants. It can take hours to restart a thermal plant. This means that the power may be prolonged for a long time.
Fortunately, thermal plants are already running at low capacity due to the coronovirus effect. But they cannot be completely closed at the same time. Senior officials said that after the announcement by PM Modi, stakeholders, power generators, DISCOM and SLDC have started planning for Sunday.
This is the nine minute challenge
Nine minutes is a challenge because nine minutes does not fall into any 15 minute block and the system cannot be reconfigured for such a short time. An engineer said that some people would not turn off the fan or air conditioner. Lights will continue to be lit at street lights and other public places. Also, there will be some percentage of people who forget to switch off.
10th minute will be challenging
Executives in the industry expect fluctuations to be around 9–10 percent of the total power requirement. One executive said that it is not too much. It will not be easy to adjust the power supply at the same time. it’s a challenge. The 10th minute in particular can be challenging, when everyone will probably turn on the home power again. It will be quite interesting to see whether the supply will be met by a sudden surge in power demand.