India Falls Into Darkness, Calls Aggreko To The Rescue

on Aug 24, 2012
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Last month India experienced several blackouts that left half of the country without electricity. On July 31 and August 1 the grid collapsed, causing the world’s worst ever blackout. This week saw the danger of another catastrophic collapse, with engineers eventually managing to prevent it. It is clear that India needs to quickly find a solution to its power supply problems, in order to prevent another crisis hitting the country in near future. Amongst the measures under consideration are plans for the construction of huge temporary power plants that would help to cope with the country’s electricity shortfall.

The Times reported during the week that India’s Central Electricity Regulatory Commission are in talks with the British company Aggreko (AGK), an established supplier of this type of installation. The company has large-scale temporary power plants deployed in India’s neighbour Bangladesh and also in Japan, introduced to combat electricity shortages after the Fukushima incident.

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Some of India’s power generating companies are also discussing terms with Aggreko, particularly those supplying power to the Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh provinces.
“They are desperate to find a solution,” said to The Times Viswanathan Radhakrishnan, the Head of Aggreko India.
It’s not hard to see why. There are some serious issues that are causing a significant shortfall of electricity in India. The country’s economy and population are growing at a swift pace; there is a shortage of fossil fuels; and the power generating industry is losing money. Overall, the need for electricity increases by 10 percent every year.

The biggest fear is that the next summer will hit present capacity even harder. Summer is the busiest time of the year, because the demand from air conditioning units and farm pumps increases dramatically. Naturally, there is much more load on the grid during that period of the year. And the concerns are that it will be much worse in the future. Mr. Radhakrishnan predicts that the shortfall will increase fourfold by 2017.

“There is a lot of pressure on the Government about what to do,” he said.
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Deploying huge temporary power plants might work. Bangladesh chose a similar strategy in 2010, when faced with the same problems that India is currently experiencing. These plants, which consist of hundreds of container-sized diesel or gas generating sets, can be deployed near heavily populated areas or industrial to contribute to the grid during peaks. The method has been proven working under similar circumstances. However, the scale of a potential crisis in India might exceed Bangladesh several times so it’s not entirely clear whether temporary power plants would be enough of a solution.
Mr Radhakrishnan said that at the moment the talks are centred on calculating the tariffs that would allow state-owned electricity companies to buy energy generated by temporary power plants and pass the costs on to customers, since the current system doesn’t allow such practices.

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