Power play: Lights out

Published: February 25, 2013

“It had us by surprise. This wasn’t a planned outage so we could not do anything about it,” says KESC spokesperson. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD NOMAN/EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD / KARACHI / QUETTA: Seventy per cent of the country plunged into darkness late Sunday night after the National Power Control Center (NPCC) developed technical faults.

According to several media outlets, faults in the NPCC, situated in the capital, developed around 11:30 pm. The faults led to a blackout in all major urban centres, including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Quetta, Hyderabad and Faisalabad.

Talking to The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity, an official from the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) said an overload on the transmission system was behind the massive breakdown. He blamed the incumbent government for not upgrading the transmission and distribution system, and choosing instead to spend over Rs1 trillion on power subsidies.

The official did not specify a timeframe for the resumption of power across the country.

Another official in the power sector said that the problem could have emerged as the 550MW Uch power plant had stopped working.  According to the official, the system tripped due to low generation and high electricity demand across the country.

“Total generation at the time of blackout in the country was 8,500MW against the demand of 13,000MW,” he maintained.

After the Uch power plant tripped, Hub power plant followed, causing a failure in Karachi Electric Supply Company’s transmission system. Subsequently, Mangla and Tarbela powerhouses went down as well.

According to the official, power plants which could produce 4,000MW were not working due to a fuel shortage and had been shut down. When contacted, National Power Control Center (NPCC) General Manager Masood Akhtar told The Express Tribune that “we are trying to restore the power supply.”

When asked about the reason behind the breakdown, he said “we do not know the reason at this juncture.” Akhtar, however, did not respond to the query when asked about the scale of power breakdown and the number of affected cities or areas of the country.

At least 60% of Karachi was reportedly blacked out.

“It had us by surprise. This wasn’t a planned outage so we could not do anything about it,” said KESC spokesperson Aminur Rehman.

“We are trying to bring back the system online. But this might take a few hours,” he said.

Former Pepco head Munawar Baseer said the main reason for such a broad impact was the absence of safety nets in the vast inter-linked power system.

“This is no rocket science. For instance if there is a sudden disconnection of supply from Tarbela dam and the entire system comes under stress… there should be way to stop that tripping right there,” he maintained.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Quetta Electric Supply Company (Qesco) spokesperson Shafqat Khan revealed 22 districts across Balochistan were without power. Makran division, however, still had electricity since it received its supply from Iran, he added.

The simultaneous power breakdown fired up rumour mills, with many fearing it pointed to a military coup considering similar outages in the past.

Pakistan’s national grid runs from Karachi to up north. While the thermal power plants are located in Sindh and the hydel power plants in K-P, the major consumption exists in Punjab.

Experts say this distribution of system especially with the power shortfall leaves the country vulnerable to such a breakdown.

Meanwhile, a statement from the Prime Minister House read that Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had taken notice of the situation. He ordered the faults be resolved as soon as possible.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2013.

Reader Comments (20)

  • Asad
    Feb 25, 2013 - 3:33AM

    … Vote for Agha Waqar as CEO WAPDA …

    Recommend

  • A. Khan
    Feb 25, 2013 - 3:51AM

    To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “Never have so many, been so royally screwed by so few”

    Recommend

  • QQ
    Feb 25, 2013 - 4:14AM

    Not a single day in Pakistan is without an incident. One day its corruption, next its ignorant religious groups and their cruelty on people, then its the incompetence of the working class…it just never ends…

    Recommend

  • Mr.President
    Feb 25, 2013 - 4:37AM

    We have plunged into the dark ages…..literally

    Recommend

  • PakPower
    Feb 25, 2013 - 5:15AM

    Such outages show how inefficient and insufficient our power generation network is. It is in dire need a revamp.

    Recommend

  • Yoghurt lover
    Feb 25, 2013 - 5:56AM

    This should not be taken as a serious problem. Such problem occur everywhere. I lived in darkness in US for more than 8 hours once because of a similar problem.

    Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Feb 25, 2013 - 6:57AM

    For some understanding of the continuous “loadshedding” and shortfall of electrical energy in Pakistan, please do a search on Wikipedia for “Pakistani electrical energy generation”!
    The questions one may want to ask the government are;

    (1) how much energy generating capacity has been added (or planned) in Pakistan over the last ten years or so in the face of the energy “shortfall”?

    (2) WHY has virtually nothing been done to address this problem (other than pointing fingers among all the “complicit” players involved as ususal)??

    Recommend

  • C. Nandkishore
    Feb 25, 2013 - 7:29AM

    It has been my concerned view that what India does Pakistan follows promptly.

    Recommend

  • Polpot
    Feb 25, 2013 - 7:54AM

    Democracy is the best darkness….errr revenge
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    What about critical patients on life support equipment? The state is a murderer.

    Recommend

  • hasan
    Feb 25, 2013 - 8:24AM

    shameful and laughable situation of the country…. as it sinks into “darkness” every passing day..

    Recommend

  • Malik
    Feb 25, 2013 - 8:28AM

    To put it nicely in Punjabi, “Pakistan da fuse ud gaya aye”.

    Recommend

  • BLing BLing
    Feb 25, 2013 - 8:43AM

    And the blame game begins

    Recommend

  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Feb 25, 2013 - 8:47AM

    It was one of the longest electricity breakdown in the history of Pakistan.

    This show show efficient our government and its allied power supply departments are.

    Recommend

  • MAK
    Feb 25, 2013 - 8:47AM

    Since when has a power ‘outage’ been ‘planned’ ??? Are the KESC wallas dumb or what ? For crying out loud !!! It has 9 hours at a stretch Karachi has been without power (and counting); the longest, i.m.o., such a multitude of humanity has ever been without power.
    “It had us by surprise. This wasn’t a planned ‘outage’ so we could not do anything about it,” says KESC spokesperson.

    Recommend

  • Mika
    Feb 25, 2013 - 9:09AM

    Nothing to worry. We are celebrating PM getting PhD from Sind(h) University.

    Recommend

  • Bee
    Feb 25, 2013 - 9:24AM

    We need to revamp the mind set of this whole nation…

    Recommend

  • Maher
    Feb 25, 2013 - 9:41AM

    Fruits of democracy.. Another feather in our DEMOCRATIC ERA

    Recommend

  • Only wiseman
    Feb 25, 2013 - 9:52AM

    How vulnerable can v get?? Two Third of the country can go into blackout in a matter of minutes in this era too!!! Amazing :(

    Recommend

  • Sleepy
    Feb 25, 2013 - 11:26AM

    Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had taken notice of the situation“…..Thank God. Now all this mess will be over very quickly by bringing in extra power from readily available state of the art rental plants from brother countries.

    Recommend

  • joy
    Feb 25, 2013 - 11:49AM

    dear pakistanis……..some of you poked fun at India when we had two major power breakdowns….taunting us ……..How would you guys feel if we start using the same language?

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