Pakistan blackout: As power is restored, ministers blame old transmission system for breakdown

–Inquiry committee constituted to look into causes of power system’s collapse

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan has said that most of the parts of the country have been energised after the major breakdown occurred Saturday night due to a sudden drop of frequency in the national grid from fifty to zero.

Addressing a press conference along with Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz on Sunday, Ayub said that teams are working to restore power supply across the country.

He said that teams are facing difficulties due to heavy fog and the exact reason behind the technical fault will be identified once the fog lifts. “The reason for the breakdown has not been ascertained yet. The technical fault occurred in a particular area,” he said.

The energy minister said that during the past tenures, no attention was paid towards improvement of the transmission system on modern lines. “Under the government of PML-N [Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz], the country saw eight major power breakdowns,” said the energy minister.

“When the incumbent government assumed office, no work had been done to upgrade the transmission system. We are now investing in the transmission and distribution system. A $6 billion transmission line has been laid in Matiari,” he further said.

The minister said that 10,300 megawatt (MW) power supply was in the national grid last night and fault occurred at Guddu power plant which rapidly tripped all power houses and grids. He added that the authorities managed to restart Tarbela power station and began restoring supply.

“We energised Tarbela power plant twice, which initiated the restoration process,” he said, adding that electricity has been restored in Islamabad, Faisalabad, Jhang and Multan, while K-Electric has been provided 400 megavolt amperes (MVA).

Speaking on the occasion, Faraz said that the government is committed to bringing improvement in the power sector. He said that a comprehensive plan is being pursued to upgrade transmission systems and to enhance power generation.

Later taking to Twitter, the energy minister said 500kv and 220kv grid stations have been restored across the country and power supply has resumed in Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalpur, Daharki, Guddu, Rohri, Shikarpur, Dera Murad Jamali, Sivi, Quetta, Peshawar, Islamabad, Jhelum, Lahore, Multan, Sahiwal, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot, and Sargodha. “Teams are busy restoring electricity for other cities,” he added.

Faraz also said in a tweet that the credit for restoration of power supply across county goes to Ayub who tirelessly worked throughout the night along with his team. He said that the issue was resolved through effective action.

Separately, Special Assistance to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill alleged that the former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had inked very costly electricity project contracts but had failed to install a proper transmission system and the nation and country is suffering today due to their negligence.

In a statement issued on Sunday, he said that the corrupt rulers of the PML-N took huge commissions in costly electricity projects but they failed to give a serious focus to proper transmission lines.

He further said the incumbent government has worked hard to solve all problems of Pakistan’s citizens. He said that the government has also controlled the nation-wide power breakdown with a prudent strategy.

Gill said that had it possible to use ‘iron’ rods in transmission of electricity, the PML-N leaders would have ended the electricity crisis in the country for good.

He lambasted that these ‘corrupt thieves’ did not think about the nation and country and they only worked on the project where ample commission and kickbacks were available. He said that sadly these rulers did not install proper power transmission lines to benefit the people of Pakistan.

Pakistan plunged into darkness today due to the negligence of these rulers, but their fugitive leader is blaming the sitting government, SAPM Gill said.

Meanwhile, the National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC) on Sunday announced that the power supply has been restored across the entire country after a nation-wide outage owing to a technical fault.

“We have restored electricity supply to all 500KV, 220KV grid stations, and all transmission lines,” the NTDC spokesperson said. He further said that the supply to the 500 KV Jamshoro grid and NKI Karachi was also restored.

The Power Division spokesperson also said that the electricity supply from Guddu power station to DG Khan, Muzaffargarh and Rahim Yar Khan was also restored.

“The power supply is completely restored in the Punjab province,” the Power Division officials said as a power outage was also witnessed on Sunday afternoon after restoration from a Saturday night power breakdown. The officials said that there was no report of a power breakdown from any part of the Punjab province.

Moreover, in a tweet in the evening, the Ministry of Energy said that power supply had been fully restored to the grid stations of the Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) that were impacted by last night’s breakdown. It said that grid stations operations teams had remained busy in restoration efforts through the night to protect the system from overloading.

The ministry further said that load-management of limited duration was being carried out on different feeders of Peshawar, Khyber, Mardan, Swabi, Swat and Hazara circles, adding that uninterrupted power supply will be restored for all affected areas soon.

Earlier, the Ministry of Energy spokesperson, tweeting from the ministry’s official Twitter handle, said that according to initial reports, the Guddu power plant developed a fault at 11:41pm on Saturday night.

“The fault caused the country’s high transmission lines to trip, which in turn caused the system frequency to drop from 50 to 0 in less than a second. The drop in frequency caused power plants to shut down.”

The blackout had been reported a little before midnight by citizens on social media from across the country, including major urban centres such as Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Multan, as well as smaller towns and cities.

Netblocks, which monitors internet outages, said internet connectivity in the country “collapsed” as a result of the blackout.

Connectivity was at “62 percent of ordinary levels,” it said in a tweet.

COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE BLACKOUT:

According to an order by the NTDC, an inquiry committee has been constituted to look into causes of the collapse of the power system and will comprise NTDC General Manager (GM) (North) Malik Javed Mahmood as convener, GM (Technical) Ghulam Abbas Memon, Chief Engineer (CE) (P&C) Atif Mujeeb Usmani, and Chief Engineer (Network) Sajjad Akhtar.

As per the order, the committee will probe into the reasons leading to collapse of the power system as well as determining the responsibility of an officer or official who may have been negligent of their duties.

Similarly, this committee is tasked to suggest measures to prevent occurrence of such incidents in future. Furthermore, this inquiry committee is requested to give its report with comprehensive recommendations in seven days.

According to sources in power sector, the inquiry should be done by National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) or by some independent organisation instead of the officials of those organisations allegedly responsible for the entire collapse.

With additional input from Ahmad Ahmadani, TLTP, AFP and INP

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