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India power outage demonstrates need for smart grid

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Wednesday, August 01, 2012

In what has turned out to be the largest power outage ever, about 620 million residents in India are without electricity, covering 22 of the country's 28 states. The blackout has forced Delhi's packed metro transportation system to shut down, stopped a number of water delivery systems, led miners to be trapped underground, shut off air conditioners and other serious complications.

The blackout affected nearly half of India's population and has led to so much uncertainty and confusion that even finding a cause for the outage may take several months, if it is ever even determined.

According to Smart Grid News, officials say the likely cause of the outage was the failure of three regional grids that are run by state electricity boards, which may have requested too much power for the grid as demand climbed. Although power outages in India are not uncommon, with the country's electric infrastructure aging quickly, such a disastrous outage points to the problems that lie in operating an unreliable power transmission and distribution grid as the demand for power soars.

Now, officials all over the world are wondering whether a smart grid system could have mitigated the effects of the historic blackout.

According to Reuters, experts say India must improve its power generation and transmission capacity, which can be done by investing in innovative new grid control technologies. This must be coupled with an all-around smart grid, as well as a review of operational procedures to ensure such a disaster cannot happen again.

The outage began on July 30, which affected nine states, and soon led to an even larger breakdown of the system the next day. On July 31, the blackout spread from the northern grid to the eastern and northeastern power network, eventually cutting electricity to half the country. The Power Grid Corporation of India, which manages the network, said they recorded a disturbance in the grid at 2:35 a.m. on July 30, which may have been the first interruption.

India's debacle shows the need for a smarter grid with enhanced communication and data-gathering capabilities. SUBNET software allows utilities to pinpoint disturbances in seconds, allowing them to quickly resolve the issue. With SUBNET's vendor-agnostic approach, utilities can use any device with any communication system on any business platform. 

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