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Indian power grid operators scramble to prepare for Modi's 'lights off' plan

Sat 4th April, 2020 1:27pm
By Sudarshan Varadhan and Rajendra Jadhav
    CHENNAI/MUMBAI, April 4 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Narendra
Modi's appeal to citizens to switch off lights across India on
Sunday to mark the coronavirus fight is generating a lot more
work and some tough challenges for India's power sector workers.
    On Friday, Modi appealed to Indians to turn out their lights
for nine minutes at 9 p.m. on Sunday to show solidarity amid the
coronavirus lockdown with a show of lamps, candles and
flashlights.
    The appeal, however, set off alarm bells for those in charge
of India's power grid, prompting a flurry of orders to officials
manning generation plants and managing grid load, amid concerns
that a surge in voltage due to a steep dip in demand could harm
the grid and cause widespread outages.
    India's Power System Operation Corp (POSOCO), which oversees
the national power grid, ordered all senior officials to be
present at generating stations, substations and load despatch
centers across India between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunday.
    It advised engineers to start reducing output from baseload
plants such as coal-fired power stations just ahead of 9 p.m.
and ramp up generation from hydro and gas plants, typically used
to address peak power demand, to manage the anticipated gyration
in demand. 
    POSOCO expects consumption to dip by over 10% when Indians
switch off lights, it said in an advisory sent to grid operators
across the country, calling the expected reduction in load and
rapid recovery, "unprecedented".
    POSOCO's parent body, Power Grid Corp of India  PGRD.NS ,
asked regional electricity transmission centre employees to be
on "high alert," as the lights out plan could "lead to outage of
grid elements due to grid constraints".
    India's Ministry of Power sought to allay concerns though,
and said in a statement, "The Indian Electricity grid is robust
and stable and adequate arrangements and protocols are in place
to handle the variation in demand."
    Modi has ordered India's 1.3 billion people indoors to avert
a massive outbreak of coronavirus infections, but the world's
biggest shutdown has left millions without jobs and forced
migrant workers to flee home to their villages.
    India's power consumption has already plunged amid the
lockdown to stem coronavirus cases - which rose to nearly 3,000
on Saturday. Some states are worried about the impact of the
"lights off".
    Nitin Raut, the power minister of Maharashtra, a western
state which consumes the most electricity in India, appealed to
citizens to light lamps and candles, while keeping lights on to 
ensure proper functioning of the grid.
    "Already the electricity demand and supply equation has been
stretched," said Raut, adding the possibility of grid failures
"could not be ruled out." 

 (Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan in Chennai and Rajendra Jadhav
in Mumbai;
Editing by Euan Rocha and Ros Russell)
 ((Sudarshan.Varadhan@thomsonreuters.com; +919810393152;
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sudvaradhan @sudvaradhan;))
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