NEW DELHI: In an effort to protect India’s power grids, the Union power ministry announced that 17 new “islanding schemes” for major cities have been planned, in addition to 26 existing and under implementation ones to isolate the fallout of a grid disturbance.
Such islands would isolate a grid disturbance, limiting it to a specific location while also allowing important services such as water supply, telecommunications infrastructure, hospitals, airports, and metro rail networks to operate.
This is significant given that cyberattacks have occurred at four of India’s five regional load despatch centres (RLDCs), which help oversee the country’s critical electricity load management functions. Earlier this year, Red Echo, a hacker group affiliated with the Chinese government, repeatedly targeted India’s power grid.
“Secretary, ministry of power reviewed all the existing and planned islanding schemes in Indian power system [on Thursday] here with Central Electricity Authority (CEA), all five Regional Power Committees (RPCs), PGCIL and POSOCO,” the power ministry said in a statement.
Posoco, the state-owned utility, manages the grid through the National Load Dispatch Centre (NLDC), five regional load dispatch centres (RLDCs), and 34 state load despatch centres (SLDCs). According to Mint, the grid is under constant attack, with at least 30 occurrences reported everyday. The majority of the attacks come from China, Singapore, Russia, and countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
CEA (Central Electricity Authority) was asked to ensure the functionality of existing islanding schemes as well as design islanding plans for key cities. The important loads should be recognised and covered in such electrical islanded systems so that these loads continue to be provided even during any significant outage.
This comes on the heels of India’s power grid failure in 2012. When the northern grid went down on July 31, 2012, and the northern, eastern, and north-eastern grids went down on August 1, 2012, India’s biggest blackout left almost 620 million people without electricity for hours at a time across 19 states and three Union territories.
“CEA further informed that they have advised all the SLDCs to set up a separate display of islanding scheme on SCADA for real-time monitoring of participating generators and critical load and the same display would also be available at respective RLDCs/SLDCs/Sub SLDCs. This will help in real-time monitoring of load generation balance of such electrical Islands which is the essence of successful islanding,” the statement said.
The National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC), which oversees India’s cybersecurity operations in critical sectors, coordinates efforts on cybersecurity issues with the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In). For grid operation, thermal, hydropower, electricity distribution, transmission, and renewable energy, the Union power ministry has established six Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs). There is also a National Cyber Coordination Centre in India (NCCC).
“This will be replicated for all the islanding schemes in the country. These islanding schemes would ensure maintenance of essential services and also faster restoration of supply to the electricity consumers in the event of any outage,” the statement added.