Power crisis: States turn to idle plants to avoid a grid collapse



States have now turned to idle thermal plants in search of additional electricity after the national grid operator warned them against overdrawing power and risking a grid collapse.

Several states have asked such plants to resume operations and are willing to pay a higher price for power generated from costlier gas and coal.

Sources in the Union power ministry said the power crisis in western states is not due to coal shortage but on account of lack of foresight as arrangements were not made even as power demand soared and imported coal plants stopped operations amid high fuel cost.

Power System Operation Corp (Posoco), the grid operator, wrote to states earlier this month, warning load dispatch centres in the western region against drawing excess power.

“Maharashtra has resorted to high overdrawing from the grid against stipulated schedule,” Posoco said in one such letter. “Such large overdrawing by Maharashtra contributed in grid frequency excursions below the IEGC (Indian Electricity Grid Code) band.”

Sources said Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Dadra & Nagar Haveli are resorting to overdrawing, putting the national grid in trouble. The Western Region Load Dispatch Centre (WRLDC) even filed a petition in the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) against overdrawing of power.


Electricity Cuts


The first hearing was held on Thursday and the CERC has sought more details and facts from the WRLDC to be able to pass orders, sources said.

“The dip in system frequency to the level of 49.97 Hz has made the grid potentially vulnerable to any large contingency,” another Posoco communication to states read.

Due to the ongoing dry spell and heatwave in various parts of the country, there has been a sharp rise in electricity demand that is expected to continue in the coming summer months.

Sources in electricity grid management agencies said western states had to resort to power cuts on Thursday after the warnings.

The grid operator has asked the states to explore all avenues, including requisition of additional power from gas-based stations in the western region and procure electricity through bilateral transactions as well from the market well in advance. States should expedite the revival of units under forced outage and commercial reasons, it said.

“This wouldn’t have happened if states imported coal for blending in time. Many states have huge outstandings to private power plants and coal companies,” said a senior official at the Centre.

The Gujarat government placed imported coal orders for two units of the state-owned GSECL 500 MW Sikka power station that were “likely to be scrapped,” according to CEA data.

“The imported coal is expected to arrive at port anytime now,” a state government official said. “We are committed to operationalise the plant this week.”

The Maharashtra government has reached out to idling and underutilised coal and gas projects to restart them at the earliest. The state’s idling plants include Wardha Warora, Nashik and the gas-based Pioneer Gas Power Plant that’s been shut for many years now.

Similarly, Tamil Nadu has started the process to restart the 600 MW Coastal Energen Ltd, which is not operational as it’s undergoing bankruptcy resolution. The Gujarat government has also sought operationalisation of Essar Power’s 1.2 GW Salaya power plant.


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