The integration of the southern power grid with the national grid fulfils a long-felt need of consumers and state electricity utilities in the South. The integration was achieved when the Power Grid Corporation of India commissioned a 765-kilovolt transmission line between Raichur and Solapur on New Year’s Day, five months ahead of schedule. The southern grid is the third largest in terms of power consumption amongst the five regional grids and is perennially starved of power. With a base energy deficit of 7.7 per cent that shoots up to 12.5 per cent during peak hours (as per latest data from the Central Electricity Authority), the southern grid has been hamstrung by inadequate generation capacity. The absence of synchronous connectivity with the national grid meant that the southern states could not take advantage of surplus power available in other regions. Currently, the southern grid has asynchronous connections with the other grids that enable transmission of high voltage direct current. But this is a cumbersome and inefficient way to transmit power and the capacity is limited. The completion of the commissioning process of the Raichur-Solapur line will synchronise the southern grid with the others in a single frequency and allow seamless transmission across the country; it will be a truly ‘one-nation-one-grid’ that will have 232 giga watts of installed capacity at its disposal.
To be sure, there are still technical procedures to be completed before the line becomes operational in the next few months but there is little doubt that it will help balance the power situation across the country. The southern states can now purchase power from the other regions to manage their deficit, but more important is the nationwide electricity market that will now come into being. There is a large disparity in traded short-term electricity prices between the south and the other regions due to the absence of transmission links. During the summer, for instance, traded electricity prices in the South are typically twice or even thrice the levels that prevail in the other regions. Hopefully, such disparities will now be a thing of the past. The responsibilities of the regulators and grid managers are now that much higher with the entire country united in a single grid. Lapses such as those that caused the western and northern grids to collapse on two consecutive days in July 2012 can lead to disastrous consequences in a unified grid. The regulators also need to keep an eye out on power exchanges and traders as their market expands with the entry of the southern grid and its eternally power-starved utilities. If integrating the country into a single grid was a challenge, then that will be rivalled by the task of efficiently managing it.
Keywords: National power grid, Southern power grid, Power transmission in India, Power Grid Corporation of India, Southern power grid integration, Raichur-Solapur transmission line, Central Electricity Authority