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RP Singh , Former chief managing director , Power Grid

17 Feb 2014

Former chief managing director of Power Grid RP Singh speaks Deepak Sahu on integration of the southern grid with the national grid and the difference between then and now. Excerpts.

In what way will the integration of the southern grid with the national grid be beneficial? Will regular outages be down?

It is wrong to say that all the regional grids were not connected earlier. Because of new generations and off takes, we had earlier connected southern region with direct current (DC) systems and not with alternate current (AC) systems. Therefore, Talcher high voltage direct current (HVDC) bipole, Jaipur and Chandrapur-Ramagundam were connecting all the five regions back-to-back. Connection through AC system makes the grid a bit weaker unless it is backed by another HVDC back-to-back. So, power flow on the AC system is always regulated through HVDC system. Therefore, connecting at 800 voltage level at the fag-end, it requires some regulation through HVDC. When I was in Power Grid, we had proposed this. But the southern region constituents did not agree because of the clients. In my opinion, it will always be easy to operate only through the AC system. Now also, only one line has come up and another one will come up somewhere in April. Moreover, power scheduling is varying between 0 per cent to 100 per cent. Therefore, it is tricky. Once we have connected all the regions, we have to manage our grid operation in a better way, otherwise it will be real hell. And it may lead to collapse of the entire country.

Will this step have the potential to bring about a structural transformation of the power sector?

A lot will depend on the part of grid management, for which we have to be alert.

Will prices in the South come down?

Of course, prices will come down. There is excess power in other regions, whereas South is starving. Once you add sufficient transmission lines, per unit cost will definitely come down. It is a simple demand supply gap. If supply increases and demand matches, then prices will automatically come down.

Why was southern grid the last to be connected?

This is a completely wrong perception. The southern region was connected and it was connected with HVDC and not with AC, reason being it is far off from the generating resources. In an AC system, when there is no intermediate injection and withdrawal of power, that line will not hold good. So, we had the national grid without the 800 kV line what we are talking of. It is wrong to say that there was no national grid. Now with the addition of these lines we will not get enough power for Southern regions unless it is backed by few more AC lines which were planned earlier including the transmission system and another HVDC bipole or back-to-back is added in the proximity of these lines. That is the mistake we have done.

Where does India stand now with one grid for the entire nation?

As far as transmission and interconnection of grid is concerned we are as good as other countries, even better-off than developed countries. Only thing is the base of addition of transmission lines at the national and regional levels should be maintained, something which Power Grid had been doing. Somebody should be responsible for execution of these transmission lines. Now Power Grid is being asked to compete with private companies. Therefore the status of Central Transmission Utility (CTU) as envisaged in the Act is being compromised. CTU and state transmission utilities (STU) have the responsibility to see that transmission lines are planned and implemented. And that gap exists. And the Act does not provide any other agency other than the CTU and STU. Therefore, we have to relook at what we have done wrong.

How will we ensure the stability of the grid?

For that purpose, Power Grid and state transmission utilities were created, but we are compromising with that in the name of competition. There is no meat in the transmission system, only tariff is 10 per cent and rest 90 per cent is generation and distribution.

Investments in transmission and distribution space have not been commensurate with the investments made in generation. Why is that so?

It is so because we have not put systems in place for transmission and distribution. Unless somebody is there to approve the projects and somebody agrees to pay for the project, everyone is after the generation part.

Will the creation of an integrated national grid also help towards inter-linking countries of the Saarc region?

In any case we have connected with Bangladesh. We will connect with Sri Lanka also. And we have to see the political reason also.