STRENGTHENING DISASTER RESILIENCE OF THE POWER SECTOR IN INDIA
Energy Future|October - December 2020
Electricity services are one of the most needed services in the present world. A natural hazard event not only causes direct physical damage but also disrupts electricity services along with various indirect damages. The severity and intensity of extreme weather events are increasing in India. In this article, Ranit Chatterjee and Lalatendu Keshari Das focus on building resiliency into the power infrastructure in India.
Ranit Chatterjee and Lalatendu Keshari Das

Target 9.1 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pledges to developing sustainable and resilient infrastructure especially for the developing countries, least developed countries, and Small Island Developing States. The resiliency of critical infrastructure is a function of a system to anticipate, absorb, adapt to, and rapidly recover from a potentially disruptive event. The 4R’s concept of infrastructure resilience involves robustness, resourcefulness, redundancy, and rapidity (Zhang, Pei, and Guo 2014). There are two broad categories of critical infrastructure, namely, object-orientated systems (OS), such as hospitals, evacuation shelters, and fire stations, and network-orientated systems (NS), such as electricity, gas, and water, which are necessary for daily life. The resiliency of the NS needs to be prioritized over the OS due to the dependency of the latter on the former for its services. Among all the NS, the power sector is the most interconnected and within it the electricity sector. A disruption in the electric services can affect health care, warnings, communication, and information sharing. This in turn can affect coordination among various response agencies in the event of a disaster as well as disrupt connectivity to the affected community. Thus, resiliency in the electricity sector is a topic of utmost importance

The severity and intensity of extreme weather events are increasing in India. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted more frequent flooding and severe cyclones among others in the near future. Past studies suggest that a 1°C temperature increase could reduce power output by 0.45–0.8% (Mideksa and Kallbekken 2010). As the power generation sources are diversifying into renewable energy from the traditional non-renewable energy sources, new risks in addition to existing ones are emerging. This article covers both the existing risks, mostly in terms of electricity distribution systems, and emerging risks in the upcoming renewable power generation systems and services based on the secondary literature. Various case studies from India and other countries have been cited to articulate the current gaps in the electricity infrastructure and services and the processes by which they can be reduced.

Existing Risks

The Indian coastal areas are prone to hydrometeorological hazards, such as floods and cyclones. In the past, cyclones, in particular, had significant impacts on the electricity services causing widespread disruptions. Mohanty, Chatterjee, and Shaw (2020) list the impact of cyclones in the past two decades on the electricity services and infrastructure in Odisha. The paper links the peak wind speed to be directly proportional to the loss incurred by the electricity sector. This can be attributed to the fact that most high-tension (HT) and low-tension (LT) lines are hoisted above ground and are impacted by high wind pressure (Rentschler and coworkers 2019; Mohanty, Chatterjee, and Shaw 2020). Kerala floods of 2018 left 2.56 million homes with no electricity for days and resulted in economic damage of ₹8.5 billion to electricity infrastructure. A total of 16,158 distribution transformers, 50 substations, and 15 large and small hydel stations were damaged. Interestingly, the flood and cyclone season in India coincides with the peak heat months, which exerts more demand for electric services for climatic cooling. The 2001 Gujarat earthquake had a significant impact on the power infrastructure with economic damage amounting to ₹8.45 billion.

Case of Cyclone Amphan

Amid COVID-19 pandemic, cyclone Amphan put extra stressors on the states of Odisha and West Bengal on May 20, 2020. With a peak wind speed of 260 kmph, the cyclone affected four districts in Odisha and 14 districts in West Bengal. The electricity services in both the states were severely affected. The cyclone made landfall in the South 24 Parganas of West Bengal. A total of 439,513 HT and LT poles, 189,169 km of conductors, and 10,280 distribution transformers were damaged. The expense for restoring the services was estimated to be around ₹13.45 billion. In Odisha, 1167 km of power lines of varying voltages, 126,540 transformers, and 448 electrical substations were affected with the estimated damage of ₹3.2 billion.

Cyclone Nisarga

Cyclone Nisarga stuck the western state of Maharashtra on June 3, 2020 with a peak wind speed of 140 kmph. The district of Raigad was the most affected, where 27,374 HT and LT poles, 1607 distribution transformers, and 228 km of distribution lines were damaged. The estimated damage was to the tune of ₹1.16 billion (Nisarga Memorandum 2020). The hydel power projects in Vaitarna and Koyna were also damaged. Owing to damage to both power generation projects and distribution infrastructure, almost five weeks after the cyclone, 149 villages faced electricity service disruption (Hindustan Times 2020). The insurance coverage for perishable products does not include electricity cuts and hence several small businesses that had insured could not get compensations (The Indian Express 2020).

Cyclone Fani

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