Nation Current Affairs 05 Apr 2020 Is mass switching of ...

Is mass switching off of lights advisable?

Published Apr 5, 2020, 3:01 pm IST
Updated Apr 5, 2020, 3:01 pm IST
With Modi’s call to switch off lights for nine minutes today, questions arise about its consequences
PM Narendra Modi. (PTI)
 PM Narendra Modi. (PTI)

Chennai: Can en masse switching off of lights in one stroke, as Narendra Modi has asked people to do at 9 pm on Sunday, lead to a power grid collapse and a subsequent electricity shutdown?

Yes it is possible, technically, say engineers, though they rule out such a disaster happening on Sunday night as officials of the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Ltd (TANGEDCO) have already geared up to face any eventuality.


According to an estimate, the switching off of household lights alone by an anticipated number of people could only lead to a drop in 10 per cent of power consumption.

But even that 10 per cent sudden drop can cause a grid failure or possible overloading that could cause damage to other equipments like television sets and refrigerators.

Conscious of the potential dangers, engineers in TANGEDCO and also the power generation plants have geared up to meet the eventuality.

As an official in Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), which is one of the suppliers of electricity to the Southern Grid, said thermal power stations would require at least one hour’s time to gradually reduce the production required to maintain the lesser load at 9 pm.


So, the Load Despatch Centre would alert the Unit Control Board to start lowering the generation capacity slowly by 8 pm itself to reach the optimal level of generation by 9 pm.

Since it is difficult to gauge in advance as to how many homes would comply with the prime minister’s appeal, the authorities are not sure of the exact amount of power that would be required to be generated in the nine minutes of blackout.

In the event of the authorities predicting a 10 per cent fall in electricity demand and requesting the power plants to reduce generation accordingly and the consumption falls by just, say, seven per cent, there is a likelihood of overloading with disastrous consequences.


Similarly if the production is reduced by 10 per cent and there is a drop of 15 per cent consumption with more than the anticipated number of homes opting for the blackout, there would be a low voltage problem, which too could cause damages to home appliances.        

So, engineers are keeping their fingers crossed, trying to figure out what percentage of households would heed to the call of the prime minister.

However, raising the generation and bringing it back to the normal level can be done is just half an hour, unlike the reduction that would need an hour, the engineers say.


Reacting to the prime minister’s call, former chairman of the Haryana Electricity Board, M G Devasahayam, said: ‘this light-off is wrought with grave risks of grid collapse with cascading effect that could shut down hospitals and choke the economy further.’