Not the whole truth

The inquiry report by NTDC into the Jan 19 , 2021 incidence of countrywide total blackout lasting for over 20 hours is not the whole truth as it invites many questions on its desired working and at the same time exposing the great pitfalls in planning , execution and operation & maintenace of the national power system .
The break – up of the WAPDA power system into a number of autonomous generation and distribution companies ( gencos & discos ) did not augur well technically as some of the tasks crucial for an efficient , secure and a reliable power system were compromised in the name of decentralisation . For example , there does not exist a single supreme ” protection ” authority which is responsible to ensure an optimal , reliable and a discriminative power system operation against indiscriminate trippings & outages of transmission lines and powerplants throughout the grid network .
NTDC’s claim that its protection system detected the fault accurately and isolated the system in correct sequence and coordination , is false . Had it been so , all the transmission lines and powerplants from north to south should not have tripped and shut down .
The report admits that there have been inordinate delays in carrying out and in approval of studies for provision of stability schemes including determination of electrical centres and proposal of island operation in emergencies .
That there is no provision of black start in the power stations is highly deplorable . One wonders how a new powerplant is given a go ahead signal by the planners and regulators without the provision of in – built black start facility.
The statement of NTDC that the fact that the system was restored without any equipment damage is the proof that its protection gear was in perfect working order is not maintainable and to be proud of , as the system protection system failed to isolate only the faulty system of the grid network sparing the remaining system to keep on supplying power to the customers which is a pre- requisite of a well designed and coordinated protection system .
NTDC needs to stop blaming Guddu powerplant ( run by CPGCL – Cetral power generation company ltd ) to be entirely responsible for the nationwide total blackout . Had its protection & control gear were set and coordinated correctly throughout the power system , the catastrophic cascade trippings and outages of all the powerplants and transmission network should not have taken place .
The inadequacy and incompetancy of the national power control centre ( NPCC ) has also come to lime light as its staff is ill equipped in the knowledge and techniques necessary to quickly restore the power system in a relatively shorter time to save the nation of enormous finanancial loss and agony .
All is not well in NTDC and NPCC and a thorough unbiased independent third party investigation into their affairs is warranted immediately to pinpoint the weaknesses and to correct these soonest possible .
Otherwise , similar blackouts can not be ruled out in future and which we can ill afford.
Engr Riaz Bhutta
Lahore

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