Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Black out in Delhi

Yesterday, India suffered its worst series of black outs in decades with over 300 million people affected a number of provinces in the North of the country (including here in New Delhi).

Here are a collection of articles about it taken from a variety of papers:

India blackout leaves 300 million without power

Date: July 31, 2012 - 6:54AM

Grid failure left more than 300 million people without power in New Delhi and much of northern India for hours on Monday in the worst blackout for more than a decade, highlighting chronic infrastructure woes holding back Asia's third-largest economy.

The lights in Delhi and seven states went out in the early hours, leaving the capital's workers sweltering overnight and then stranded at metro stations in the morning rush hour as trains were cancelled.

As if I wasn't dreading Monday enough, this had to happen. 

Electricity supplies were restored to Delhi and much of Uttar Pradesh, a state with more people than Brazil, by midday. But the states of Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir were still without full power in the early evening.

Blackout ... children study in the light of candles. Photo: Reuters

Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said all power would be restored within hours.

Power shortages and a creaky road and rail network have weighed heavily on the country's efforts to industrialize. Grappling with the slowest economic growth in nine years, Delhi recently scaled back a target to pump $US1 trillion into infrastructure over the next five years.

Major industries have dedicated power plants or large diesel generators and are shielded from outages -- but the inconsistent supply affects investment and disrupts small businesses. Office blocks, hotels and large apartment buildings all use backup diesel generators.

India's power grid crashed. Photo: AP

Chaos reigned on Delhi's always-hectic roads on Monday as stop lights failed and thousands of commuters abandoned the metro. Water pumping stations ran dry.

"First, no power since 2 in the morning, then no water to take a shower and now the metro is delayed by 13 minutes after being stuck in traffic for half an hour," said 32-year-old Keshav Shah, who works 30 kilometres outside the capital.

"As if I wasn't dreading Monday enough, this had to happen."

Passengers sit in a train as they wait for electricity to be restored. Photo: Reuters

The government's top economic planning adviser, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said the blackout may have been caused by a mix of coal shortages and other problems on the grid.

"I've no doubt that this is the area that we need to show improved performance in, and we also need show a clear sense of what we are doing to prevent it," Ahluwalia said at his office, where power had been restored some hours earlier.


He said the grid was better networked now than five years ago and power sharing was more common.

But blackouts lasting up to eight hours a day are frequent in much of the country and have sparked angry protests on the industrial fringes of Delhi this summer, the hottest in years.

At least 200 trains were cancelled with some stranded. Authorities made restoring services to hospitals and transport systems a priority.

Shinde blamed the outage on an incident near Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal, without giving details. He said repairs were being carried out fast compared to a similar grid outage in the United States four years ago.

"In 2008, there was a power failure in the USA. Their Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asked India for assistance and it took four days to restore the power," he told reporters.

India suffers a peak hour power deficit of about 10 per cent. It has been made worse this year by a weak monsoon, driving demand from farmers pumping more water from wells.

The outage forced the shutdown of a nuclear power plant at Rawatbhata in the desert state of Rajasthan. It will take about 48 hours to restart. Hydroelectric plants in the Himalayas and thermal power stations in the wheat belt of Punjab and Haryana were slowly returning to normal.

India has the world's fifth-largest coal reserves and relies on it for two-thirds of its power generation. Wrangles over land and environmental clearances and failure to invest in new mines and technology have held back coal output as demand rises.

Officials at Delhi's international airport said flights were unaffected. Delhi's private power company, BSES, said northern India last not suffered such a major outage since 2001.

"This kind of breakdown shows that the system needs some big overhaul to increase credibility and increase the confidence in the system of India," said Jagannadhan Thunuguntla, equity head at Delhi-based brokerage SMC Capital.


This article was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/world/india-blackout-leaves-300-million-without-power-20120731-23b7k.html


Chaos hits millions in India's power struggle

The collapse of the northern electricity grid yesterday affected more than 300 million people – and highlighted the country's creaking infrastructure

Andrew Buncombe
The Independent's Asia Correspondent Andrew Buncombe is based in Delhi. His dominion ranges over India, Pakistan, Burma, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, occasionally parts of South East Asia and - or at least he is hoping - The Maldives.

Millions of people across the north of India were without electricity yesterday when the largest blackout for a decade triggered chaos and misery and highlighted the country's creaking infrastructure.

Up to 300 million people across eight states were affected after the nation's northern power grid crashed at about 2.30am, apparently unable to cope with demand. Ten hours later, about 60 per cent of supply had been restored and more was steadily returning last night.

The precise cause of the collapse was not immediately clear and a government-appointed panel was set up to investigate. Some reports claimed there was a problem near the city of Agra that had somehow triggered a collapse across the grid.

The precise cause of the collapse may not be known, but the impact was all too clear.

Airports and hospitals struggled to get by with back-up generators, about 300 inter-city trains were cancelled or delayed and the Delhi metro, which carries about two million passengers a day, saw its services severely disrupted.

For people left struggling without fans, refrigerators or air-conditioning in temperatures around 35C and with humidity of almost 90 per cent, it was an unpleasant situation. But for recent rain in Delhi, the temperature would have been much higher in the capital.

"Today it was horrendous," said Komal Kumar, a shop keeper from south Delhi. "The metro was not working, the trains were not working, the signals were not working and there were traffic jams at every junction. It was just a chaotic situation because there were not enough traffic police."

Bhupender Giri, an electrician and handy-man from Sangam Vihar, one of the so-called unauthorised neighbourhoods that spring up without planning permission around Delhi, said the power cut meant he had been unable to pump water to his house.

"I am not happy. There were no lights, no water," said Mr Giri, who said he would not know if power had been restored to his district until he returned home later yesterday.

The minister for power, Sushilkumar Shinde, told reporters the blackout had been triggered by a problem near Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, and that power would be restored within hours. He gave no further details, but said repairs were being carried out more quickly than when the US suffered a similar blackout four years ago.

In Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state, officials blamed other states which had been over-drawing from the national grid. They said the situation had been worsened by a weak monsoon that reduced hydroelectric generation and kept temperatures higher, increasing demand.

While it was the first time since 2001 that the entire northern grid had collapsed – an incident that at the time cost the country an estimated £70m in lost production – the crisis underscored the challenges created by India's inadequate infrastructure.

During peak hours, India has an electricity deficit of about 12 per cent. While the authorities have tried to increase capacity, demand has been rising recently by 8 per cent annually as the growing middle-class buys more air-conditioners.

The authorities are also trying to develop solar and nuclear power. While nuclear accounts for only about 3 per cent of the total, officials want to raise this to 25 per cent by 2050 and reduce the country's reliance on oil and coal.

In some states as much as half of generated electricity is lost, much of it stolen by individuals who illegally hook up to electricity lines. Industry officials complain that inadequate power supply is holding back the country's economic development.

The government's top economic planning adviser, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, told Reuters the blackout may have been caused by a combination of coal shortages and other problems on the grid. "I've no doubt that this is the area that we need to show improved performance in," he said.

Yesterday's incident also provided a graphic reminder to India's city dwellers of the routine hardships confronted every day by a huge fraction of the population. The most recent census suggested that more than a third of all Indian homes did not consume enough electricity to light a single bulb.



India power outage hits 350m people

Delhi and states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir all affected

Train passengers wait for power to be restored at a station in New Delhi. Photograph: Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

The worst blackout to hit India in more than a decade left 350 million people in seven northern states without power for more than eight hours on Monday.

The capital, Delhi, as well as the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir were all affected.

Hundreds of overnight trains were stopped in their tracks after power to northern railway lines was cut, and Delhi's metro system was badly hit. Water supplies in the capital, always patchy, were worse than usual, as was road congestion after most traffic lights failed.

Around 11am local time, India's minister for power and energy, Sushil Kumar Shinde, claimed 60% of power had been restored to the northern grid.

Regions affected by the Indian power blackout

 He then prompted widespread incredulity by claiming that India had one of the best power grids in the world and boasting that when the US faced a similar failure in 2008, it took power from India.

This time, it was neighbouring Bhutan which came to India's rescue, as Delhi's metro drew on hydroelectric power from the country. Services on all six metro lines resumed by 8.45am after almost three hours of disruption.

Shinde said the power cut was caused by some states taking more than their fair share of electricity. "The reason for the outage was due to some states taking more power than they ought to have, which causes the frequency rate of the grid to go up. The offending states will be severely penalised," he told a press conference in Delhi.

A three-member committee would be formed to investigate what had caused the entire northern grid to fail, he added.

Amid the public anger there was humour, mocking a nation which sees itself as a future superpower but cannot even keep the lights on.

"Spiderman found drunk and unconscious on Delhi pavement. Why? With no power comes no responsibility," said one tweet.

For India's middle classes, the first they knew of the power cut was when they awoke drenched in sweat as their air conditioning units failed. But for the hundreds of millions of Indians who live below the poverty line, regular electricity is a far-off dream.

In 2011, 289 million people – 25% of India's population – had no access to electricity. In rural areas that figure rises to 33%, according to a report from the Indian government in 2011. Estimates from the International Energy Agency suggest that even in 2030, not all Indian homes will have electricity, according to AEA calculations.

India is the world's fifth-largest electricity producer after the US, China, Japan and Russia, but its per capita consumption is among the world's lowest. In 2009, Indians used 571 kWh per capita, compared with the US, which consumed 12,914 kWh per head.

Indian politicians are forever coming up with new electricity-saving wheezes. The state of Punjab has just banned air conditioning units in all government offices and from 1 August will cut office hours to 8am to 2pm with no lunch.

There was outrage in June when the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, decreed that all malls were to shut at 7pm in a bid to save power.

India's power supply is so insecure that even a stray pet can plunge millions into darkness. On Saturday, a cat leapt into a Delhi grid station and was electrocuted, causing a fire that left parts of east Delhi without power for 24 hours.

  • © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Grid failure for 300 million across India

India’s Northern power grid crashed on Monday morning wreaking havoc at airports, railway and metro stations, hospitals and across traffic congested roads, its worst power outage in a decade.

Graphic showing the extent of the power blackout in India 

By Rahul Bedi, New Delhi
11:50AM BST 30 Jul 2012

The outage which directly affected some 400 million people-more than the combined populations of the US and Canada-was spread across eight northern provinces, including the capital New Delhi.

It left people helpless and sweltering in searing temperatures that were exacerbated by high levels of humidity.

“The power breakdown which occurred around 1.30 in the morning was frightening as nothing worked for hours thereafter” banker Rishi Tiwari said. It seemed almost apocalyptic, he added.

Thousands of passengers were stranded for hours at Delhi’s two main railway stations as all trains to the northern states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir remained non-functional.

Delhi Metro railway services too ceased to operate for up to four hours and the city’s normally chaotic traffic gridlocked the capital for hours on end, even after power was restored around 9.30 am local time.

City water treatment plants were shut down and airport and hospital services switched over to generators to partially restore services, a move which only added to the oppressive heat and worrisomely high levels of pollution.

“There is no way India can become an economic world power with such outages that leave a third of the country paralysed” businessman Virender Kapoor said. Its almost as if somebody had launched a crippling cyber attack on its power grid, he declared.

Officials conceded that the power breakdown, the first such in over a decade, was caused primarily by the huge demand for electricity which is simply not available.

The severe paucity of coal-the principal source of power-loss making State and private sector electricity providers, widespread power theft and inefficient and obsolete transmission systems regularly left large portions of the country without electricity for up to 12 hours every day.

This adversely affected the agricultural states of Punjab and Harayna as they were unable to water their fields, particularly this year when they faced the prospect of a drought due to poor monsoon rain.

Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde declared that he could not pinpoint what led to the breakdown but had constituted a committee to inquire into it.

The chaos generated by these frequent power cuts- know euphemistically as ‘load shedding’- lead frequently to protests and unrest on the streets.

A fortnight earlier angry crowds gathered in one up-market South Delhi neighbourhood blocking traffic and clashing with the police after not having had power for over 48 hours.

This, in turn also resulted in a shortage of water as it could not be pumped up to overhead tanks, further fuelling their rage.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had pushed through a deal with the US four years ago to generate nuclear power in order to meet India's desperate energy shortages, but the entire scheme to erect reactors remains stillborn, embroiled in controversies over land acquisition and safety.

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