July power outages that plunged half of India into darkness are casting light on fragile grids around the world. Since news of India’s power outages broke, interest in power grids and electricity market research has spiked worldwide. How did India overcome its massive blackout and restore power to more than 620 million people? How can another grid failure be avoided? And how do grids in Asia, the Middle East and Africa compare?
As the world’s largest blackout unfolded, Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd. posted outage and restoration times on its website. The following information is from those reports.
India Power Outage No. 1
At 2:35 a.m. July 30, a grid disturbance occurred on the northern grid, which provides power to nine states of northern India: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. The region was cloaked in darkness for several hours.
By 8 a.m., power to essential services such as railways, the metro and the airport in northern India had been restored.
By 11 a.m., engineers had restored some 60 percent of the northern grid’s load. They did it by gearing up the power supply from hydro sources and drawing power from the eastern and western grids to start thermal generating units in the northern grid.
By 12:30 p.m., most substations in cities and towns had power.
By 7 p.m., the northern grid was meeting normal demand — some 30,000 MW.
India Power Outages Nos. 2, 3 and 4
The next day, three of India’s power grids failed. At 1 p.m. July 31, blackouts occurred in the northern, eastern and northeast grids. Only small pockets in Delhi, Kolkata and Narora retained power.
The western and southern grids remained functional and shared their power supplies with the affected regions. Hydro stations in the northern grid started, and supply was restored up to Punjab and Haryana areas. Startup supply also was extended to Singrauli, Rihand via Vindhyachal, and startup supply to Talchar was extended from the western grid.
At 3:30 p.m. power was restored to the metro and railway and extended to all affected areas.
By 9:30 a.m. Aug. 1, the transmission system was restored to normal with 100 percent demand met in the northern, eastern and northeast grids.
India Power Outage Investigation
Electricity grid experts immediately suspected a cause of India’s power outages: an overstressed, outdated and fragile power grid.
India Power Minister Veerappa Moily during a Monday news conference said some states had surpassed their electricity quotas from the transmission grid. The nine provinces in northern India agreed to implement a system to prevent blackouts and will conduct independent audits of their electricity systems within three months, Moily said.
The minister also announced that four people, including a cybersecurity expert, will join a three-person team to investigate the cause of India’s power outages. Current investigators are: Arvinder Singh Bakshi, chairman of the Central Electricity Authority, India’s power-monitoring agency; Rabindra Nath Nayak, chairman of Power Grid Corp. of India, which operates India’s five regional grids and runs more than 62,000 miles of transmission lines; and S. K. Soonee, CEO of Power System Operation Corp., a Power Grid subsidiary that carries out independent power system operations.
The panel will submit its report by Aug. 16, Moily said.