The grid failure that plunged half the country into darkness was expected because India has failed to augment its transmission system to meet growing power demand of states, a review by the Planning Commission has revealed.
High quality transmission lines such as high voltage direct current (HVDC) — used for long distance bulk transmission of power and 765 KV/400 KV — alternate current transmission system, are important in ensuring uninterrupted electricity supply from far-flung power generation centres to homes.
In the last five years, the plan panel note says, only 3,000 cubic kms (ckm) of HVDC lines and 60,000 ckm of alternate current cables were laid as against the target of 85,000 ckm indicating the weak link between the generation and end user. These transmission lines get overheated when more electricity than its capacity is drawn resulting in tripping of the grid.
“The constant overheating of the system has resulted in the break-down,” a plan panel official said, adding that it will continue if immediate repair and maintenance does not take place.
In addition, a plan panel official said, around 20% of the transmission infrastructure was inadequate, old and in poor state. The panel’s note circulated at a meeting of power ministers this month highlighted how the load on transmission and distribution network was increasing with power demand on the rise and poor maintenance.
The situation is not expected to improve as rural power demand too is rising because of the drought-like situation in many parts of the country and government may have to close down some transmission lines for urgent repairs.
“We are in real power crises,” an official admitted, who pointed out that hydel generation was less than 50% because of deficient water in reservoirs and many thermal plants were not running to optimum level because of inadequate coal supply.