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Monday, 10 Feb 2014
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‘One Nation – One Grid’…Almost


The southern grid was synchronously integrated with the rest of the national grid on 31 December 2013, thus fulfilling the much awaited ‘One Nation – One Grid – One Frequency’ mission. This interconnection makes the national grid the biggest synchronised grid in the world with more than 228 GW installed capacity.


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The national integration of grids was achieved by commissioning the first of the two Raichur-Solapur 765 kV single circuit transmission lines by the Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL). The transmission line was commissioned five months ahead of its contractual schedule at a cost of approximately Rs 815 crore.


Indian power distribution system is divided into five regional electricity grids — Northern, Eastern, Western, North-Eastern and Southern. Since August 2006, all grids, except the southern grid, have been synchronously connected and have a single frequency. The southern grid was linked to the national grid but through high voltage direct current transmission line and with a different frequency.


Relief to southern states and more


The grid synchronisation has come as a major relief to the power deficit states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. With this new connectivity, southern states will be able to draw extra power from the northern region especially during the summer when they face severe power shortage.


The southern grid is the third largest in terms of power consumption but has been hamstrung by inadequate generation capacity. They were unable to tap the surplus power of the northern states as the region was not integrated with the national power grid.


In the summers, while power costs range between Rs four and Rs six per unit on the national grid, on the southern grid it was as high as Rs 20 per unit because of shortages in the regions. Now, easier availability of power could lead to lower tariffs in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.


Before synchronisation, the inter-regional transmission capacity between the West and South was 1,500 MW. With the construction of transmission lines between Maharashtra and Karnataka, the capacity is expected to increase to 5,000 MW.


For Tamil Nadu, which faces an acute power deficit, the new system will ease the frequency problem and help facilitate power purchase from other states. Till now, Tamil Nadu was grappling with frequency problems as the state had to maintain a frequency of 52Hz, failing which it resulted in a penalty.


The synchronisation will also improve the overall transmission and facilitate better management of demand, ensuring the stability of the electricity grid. It will relieve the congestion being experienced in a few transmission corridors.


An integrated national grid will also help towards interlinking other countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) region -- Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and the Maldives. The ‘SAARC Grid’ is a dream project which envisages meeting electricity demand in the region by grid linking the SAARC nations. India already has power grid links with Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh, and plans to develop power transmission links with Myanmar and Sri Lanka.


Pending Issues


A Pan India synchronous grid can prove to be a solution to several power transmission anomalies. However, it might be awhile before that becomes a reality in India.


Even though the Raichur-Solapur 765 kV transmission line was commissioned ahead of schedule, it is likely to take a few more months before its power flow is stabilised. Currently, only 500 MW of power is flowing through the new line. The new single circuit corridor will enable the southern regions to import an additional 2,100 MW power. However, PGCIL is likely to partly restrict electricity flow till December 2014 as integration with the power deficit southern region will put the entire national grid at risk.


Grid regulators and managers have to tackle a higher risk when the entire country unites in a single grid. Post synchronisation, the focus must shift towards efficiently managing the unified grid. Lapses such as those that caused the western and northern grids to collapse in June 2012 would make both sides vulnerable in case of seamless integration. During a grid collapse, the states that draw power from a particular network go without electricity resulting in a blackout.


Thus, PGCIL is expected to go slow on releasing the entire capacity as there is a threat of putting the entire national grid at risk if proper care is not taken.


The parallel 765kV line connecting Raichur and Sholapur, which is being constructed by Patel Engineering, is also delayed by roughly three months and is expected to be ready in six months. A similar line between Hyderabad and Wardha, being constructed by PGCIL, is still under construction and will take three months for completion.


As for the near future, benefits accruing from the commissioning of a single 765 kV AC line are not enough to change the supply-demand dynamics of a national power system. Transmission capacity will definitely improve when both circuits are in place but won’t do much to regulate power flow.


Grid security will improve only with more inter-regional links that can absorb sudden load variations in the event of tripping. Setting up new links will improve the stability of the national power grid system.


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Quote of the week:


"Connectivity to the Southern Grid should be seen as a historical achievement…Availability, adequacy, and affordability have to be the crux of power sector strategy in India….the emphasis of power sector development should be on capacity addition, transmission and last mile connectivity. With this, the power system has stepped into a new era-One Nation, One Grid, One Frequency."

Jyotiraditya Scindia, Minister of Power


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