Who is responsible for outage?

Electricity outage that lasted nearly 12 hours is a slap on the face of utility companies involved in generation, transmission and distribution companies of Pakistan. Experts have been warning that not following good governance could plunge the country in complete darkness but no one paid any attention. Not only that millions of people spent sleepless night but millions of man-hours were also wasted. The delay in issuing any clarification for the outage, gave birth to rumors like India has attacked and it is a forced outage.

In the simplest words the ordeal started mainly because demand exceeded supply and the system tripped. Ideally, this should have not taken more than couple of hours had the system was in order. The initial reports suggested that 4,000MW capacity was offline because power generation companies didn’t have the funds to purchase oil. This also nullifies the perception being created by the incumbent government that demand exceeds supply.

According to media reports the massive power breakdown plunged major parts of the country into darkness late on Sunday night. From Islamabad to Karachi, most major cities reported power outage. There was suspension of electricity supply in Lahore, Gujranwala, Multan, Quetta, Peshawar and Sukkur and other cities because of a major fault. In Karachi alone, 36 grid stations tripped, plunging most of the city areas into complete darkness. Many cities and towns in Sindh witnessed complete outage and most of Balochistan was also without electricity.

The entire country suffered complete blackout, third in the past ten years as the entire power generation, transmission and distribution system collapsed. The domino effect led to tripping of power plants one after another. The trauma started from Uch and Hubco plants having an aggregate generation of around 1,750MW constituting almost 25 per cent of total national generation. This led to tripping down of Mangla well as Tarbela dams. By midnight the entire country was plunged into darkness as safety mechanism at all plants switched them off to protect them from any damage.

At that time generation had dipped to less than 8,000MW, with demand hovering above 13,000MW there was a deficit of 5,000MW. That was too high a pressure on a system which has no backup. According to sector experts the accident assumes a criminal negligence because there was no fuel to run 4,000MW capacity. The only regret is that no lessons had been learnt from the last two national breakdowns.

As media was desperate to find a clue to this outage all sorts of replies were given. Initially, no one had the slightest realization of the problem and in Karachi media was that there was a minor fault at Hubco due to which load was shifted to Mangla and Tarbela grid stations, which also tripped, causing a blackout across most of the country. Experts say tripping of Mangla and Tarbela grid stations was natural because of overloading. Therefore, this should not be considered a fault. 

A large number of residents came out of their homes and there was panic when people started receiving phone calls from their relatives in other cities. Soon rumors started spreading that the blackout was the result of a terrorist attack on the national grid system. There were also speculations about a cyber attack on the system.

Though, prime minister has ordered an investigation, not much can be expected. Whatever happened was the outcome of violation of standard operating procedures and complete disregard to good governance. The system could have sustained even higher losses, had it not shutdown.

Courtesy: The Financial Daily

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