RLDCs must have power to cut off states
With power minister Veerappa Moily reading the riot act to the chief ministers and principal secretaries of states whose action brought down the power grid on two successive days, most have promised some serious action including more autonomy for their local load dispatch centres and paying heed to the regional load dispatch centres (RLDCs) controlled by the state-owned Power Grid Corporation. It’s not clear, however, if this is anything more than an empty promise since states have shown scant regard for grid discipline in the past. Enough notices have been given by the Northern Regional Load Dispatch Centre (NRLDC)—402 such warnings were issued to Uttar Pradesh alone between June 1 and July 16—telling states not to overdraw power since the grid frequency was dipping below safe limits. Since warnings are not enough, states are supposed to have frequency relays that automatically cut them off from the grid when the frequency is above or below the safe limit—this is now a band of 50.2 Hz to 49.7 Hz—but the fact the grid collapsed makes it clear these have been bypassed in some way or the other. There’s then the commercial method of dramatically escalating penalties for when states over-supply or over-draw power from the grid—even over-supply causes a grid failure since the grid frequency rises. Problem is this solution isn’t working either. Between April 1 and July 3, UP’s penalties on this rose to R722 crore, but the state has paid just R47 crore of this, leaving the state with an unpaid bill of R1,650 crore on this account, including earlier arrears.
Logically, the NRLDC, or any other regional load dispatch centre (RLDC), should be able to cut off a state that is a habitual offender, but this is where the politics comes in. RLDCs are subsidiaries of the government-owned Power Grid, making them susceptible to political pressure. So, no matter what the outcome of the Central power minister’s discussions with state chief ministers—the states have said their local load dispatch centres will now comply with RLDC directives immediately!—it is high time the RLDCs were freed from government control. Nothing short of this will work.