India’s largest blackout in History on July 2012

Power cuts in India are common. The recent massive collapse of India’s power grid was the worst in the decade. Three out of the five regional power grids collapsed leaving about 670 million people powerless making July 2012 as the largest blackout month in history.

First, the Northern Region Grid collapsed at about 2.35 am on 30th July, 2012 due to increased load and gird disturbance leaving nine states of Northern India powerless including Delhi, the capital of India. Nearly 350 million suffered due to this power outage which resulted for about a day. Restoration work followed with major networks of Rails, Airports, Metro and other important areas being restored under the direction of CEO, POSOCO and POWER Grid’s Chairman & Managing Director  as stated by Power Grid Corporation of India. Finally, at about 8.00 AM power supply to the essential services and other essential load in Northern India were restored with the help of neighbouring Bhutan’s hydroelectric power. And by 11.00 AM about 60% of load of the Northern Region was restored extending to most cities and towns by 12.30 P.M gearing up power supply from eastern and western grids. Progressively, the northern gird was back to normalcy at about 19.00 hrs.

But, within 24 hours of restoration work, again the Northern region grid collapsed for the second time on 31, July 2012 at around 1pm local time on Tuesday. This time the sudden power outage resulted in collapse of two more regional girds namely, the Eastern and the North-Eastern regional Grids which spread across 20 of India’s 28 states leaving about 620 million people affected. Half of India’s country like Delhi, Bihar, Orissa, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh etc were facing blackout Tuesday with more problems like massive traffic jams due to failed traffic lights, miners being trapped underground as lifts failed, metro services coming to an halt and people were left scorching in the summer heat. Then by late evening, half of the power was restored (around 25000 MW of the total 50,000 MW). Supply to the affected regions is being extended from western and southern Grids. The hydro stations in the northern region started working and supply has been restored up to Punjab and Haryana .[Source: The Hindu ]

Possible Reasons of the happening:

India has five regional grids in total according to geographical area which covers the different state’s electrical power system namely Northern Region (NR), Eastern Region(ER), Western Region (WR), Southern Region (SR) and North-East Region (NER), out of which the NR, ER, WR and NER are synchronized and is known as the NEW Grid. SR, on the other hand is not synchronized with the rest of the regions and hence runs on a slightly different Frequency and connected with WR and ER with HVDC links only. [Source: Wikipedia]

Each regional Grid is like a big machine with constant energy flowing thereby balancing the loads on the equipment. Any imbalance in loads due to huge demand causes a drop in voltage making the equipment to heat up due to large flow of current. In a home circuit when similar situation happens, the fuse blows up breaking the circuit and thereby preventing any hazards. For the grids with minor problems, the load is re-balanced by re-routing the power to the lines. But, if there is too much demand, then load reduction is done by shutting down powers in some areas using its hybrid system. Sometimes, any disturbance like trees falling over the wires can causes increase in demand in power causing overflow of current since the tree act as a giant resistor. In that case, the power outage happens and the transmission line has to be shut down. [From: Anatomy of Powercuts]

In our 2012 power outage case, First Post India stated Times Now channel reporting that Uttar Pradesh was drawing more power than the prescribed quota leading to the collapse of the three grids to which UP government strongly objected to. Though the actual reason of the collapse is unknown, India’s demand for electricity has soared up in recent years with its developing economy. And this year, with the monsoons being weak making places hotter and dryer than usual, drives up the consumption of energy in huge amounts. Our very own Grid system being old, build on inadequate and outdated infrastructure is still unable to meet the country’s demand. It should be remembered that the last time the northern grid failed was in the year 2001[AK1].  [Source: NDTV]

Relevant news reports:

BBC

Power cut causes major disruption in northern India – 30 July 2012

In pictures: India’s power crisis deepens – 31 July 2012

New York Times

2nd Day of Power Failures Cripples Wide Swath of India – a yawning absence of governmental action and leadership

NDTV

PM asks Moily for report on power failure  – August 06, 2012

DelhiPower Failure – Updates and Results  by NDTV

The Hindu

Delhi is Powerless –August 1, 2012

Times of India

Live Updates on Power Outage -World’s biggest blackout- July 31, 2012

Major power failure in north India, Delhi Metro services hit –August 7, 2012

Business Today

GRID FAILURE: India Inc seeks urgent power sector reforms  – 30 July, 2012

Massive power cuts across north, east India; reasons unknown – 31 July, 2012

Economic Times India on Sushilkumar Shinde -The most powerless man to hold home minister portfolio? – August 6, 2012

Zee News

North India blackout: Blame it on states ON what led to such a massive power failure?

Good News admist the power failures in India – People started questioning as well as looking into other alternative plans pushing the Government to look into this issue  

Power grid failure: Amid gloom, Gujarat sets an example – August 1, 2012

National geographic – On Energy Planning July 31, 2012

Yahoo News – Power restored across India after historic failure -August 1, 2012

Twitter Feeds

In India, although power is restored, doubts remain: NEW DELHI— Asked to rate his performance as Indi… http://bit.ly/OVcEsY (washingtonpost.com- August 8, 2012)

As Power Is Restored in India, the ‘Blame Game’ Over Blackouts Heats Up http://nyti.ms/OOGiA0 #powergrids (nytimes.com –August 8, 2012)

For hundreds of millions in #India, every night is a #blackout washingtonpost.com/world/asia.html (washingtonpost.com –August 8, 2012)

The Government

The chairman of the Power Grid Corporation of India, R N Nayak told the news that thought the exact cause of the power cut was unclear it appeared to be due to the “interconnection of grids”.

The country’s power minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, blamed the states themselves for “overdraw” of electricity. Instead of sorting out this mess, “the unimpressive Mr Shinde was promoted on Tuesday afternoon to home minister. (by guardian.co.uk)

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