Amid concerns over power grid failure and voltage fluctuations following the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a 9-minute blackout on Sunday, the Government on Saturday termed the apprehensions as “misplaced”.

Some apprehensions have been expressed that a sudden drop and surge in demand for power may cause instability in grid and voltage fluctuation which may in turn harm electrical appliances.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed to the citizens of the nation to voluntarily switch off lights between 9 pm and 9:09 pm on April 5 to demonstrate solidarity in fighting against the Coronavirus pandemic.

The call immediately put the power sector managers across the country in a huddle to quickly devise a strategy to prevent the April 5 event from creating ground for a possible grid collapse and resultant blackout throughout the country.

However, the Ministry of Power has clarified that only lights in houses will be switched off during the period and that no call to switch off street lights or appliances in homes has been made.

The lights in hospitals and other essential services will remain on, the ministry added.

Local bodies have been advised to keep street lights on for public safety.

“The Indian electricity grid is robust and stable and adequate arrangements and protocols are in place to handle the variation in demand,” it said.

“The appeal of the Prime Minister is to simply switch off the lights in their homes from 9 pm to 9.09 pm on April 5. There is no call to switch off either street lights or appliances like computers, TVs, fans, refrigerators and ACs in the homes. Only lights should be switched off,” it added.

Following the Prime Minister’s call, load despatch centres across the country were told to be in high level of preparedness to counter any threat to power grid following sudden drop in demand when the country switches off electricity at their homes on Sunday, an IANS report said.

In letters written to independent power producers and central and state power transmission and distribution utilities, everyone have been asked to remain at high level of alertness to ensure smooth and safe operation of the grid before, after and during the blackout period.

“…It is estimated that in case of switching off the lighting there will be a sharp 3000 MW load reduction phenomenon may occur in Uttar Pradesh in a very short duration of time. Reduction in above mentioned load may also cause a high voltage surge in the UP Power Grid,” UP State Load Despatch Centre wrote to distribution and transmission utilities emphasising to prepare ahead to ensure smooth operation of the grid.

Reacting to challenges that may pose during the blackout, Tamil Nadu Transmission Corporation had also written to all engineers to be present in office on Sunday between 8 and 10.30 pm to handle any emergency. It has also asked staff at the transmission utility to monitor all capacitor bank for appropriate operation.

Country’s largest power transmission utility Power Grid Corporation has asked all regional transmission utility staff to remain on high alert during the period of blackout and all station in-charges and and senior level executives to be present in office.

Going a step further, UPLDC had also advised state distribution utilities to resort to load shedding in a staggered manner between 8-9 pm to prevent voltage from building in the grid following a sudden drop in load during blackout.

As per power ministry data, on April 2, 2020, the maximum power demand met in the country stood at 1,25,817 ME, almost 20 per cent lower than April 2, 2019 figure of 1,68,326 MW.

India’s grid is connected as a wide area synchronous grid nominally running at 50 Hz. The permissible range of the frequency band is 49.95-50.05 Hz, as per CERC. The Union Government regulates grid frequency through national and regional load dispatch centres. States regulate intra-grids through State Load Despatch Center (SLDC).

In a morning video message to the nation on Friday, PM Modi urged citizens to light a candle or a diya on April 5 at 9 pm for nine minutes to dispel the darkness and gloom brought by the outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus.

“This Sunday, April 5, we have to challenge the Covid-19 pandemic, we have to introduce it to the power of light.

“We have to take the Mahasankalp (strong determination) of 130 crore citizens to new heights. I ask for your nine minutes at 9 pm on April 5,” Modi said.