Hours-long power outage hits Punjab, K-P

The southern part in Sindh and Balochistan was not affected

Shahram Haq January 15, 2016


An hours-long power outage affected almost 80% of Punjab and some parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir on Friday after a high-intensity power line tripped.

Officials said a damaged electric-breaker coupled with intense fog in the morning resulted in the tripping of Muzzaffargarh-Multan 500KVA transmission line, cutting off electricity to most of Pakistan’s northern regions. The southern part in Sindh and Balochistan was not affected.

Electricity was partially restored to major cities within two to three hours and by 4.45pm supplies to all affected power distribution companies (DISCOs) were normalised.

The generation units tripped in the North Zone due to higher loads than the available generation capacity, according to the Water and Power Ministry spokesperson. The four DISCOs in the south remained by and large unaffected.

About 14 power plants, including Mangla and Tarbella, were clogged by the National Power Control Centre to keep the national grid frequency level above 50 megahertz in order to avert a complete blackout, according to the National Transmission and Dispatch Company officials.

The tripping of transmission lines caused the South-to-North supply of electricity to be interrupted.

In winter, when hydroelectric power production in the north is lower, the overall direction of flow of electricity is from thermal power plants based mostly in Sindh and southern Punjab.

Last year, the national grid observed frequent power failures of a much larger scale than of Friday, primarily due to the foggy weather, raising questions over the state-owned power infrastructure.

The ministry, however, said the system protection measures taken in 2015 positively contributed towards better handling of such emergencies this time. The system was restored in a shorter time as compared to the previous occasions when it took more than 24 hours to restore supplies.

Tahir Basharat Cheema, a former managing director of Pakistan Electric Power Company, told The Express Tribune that fog was one element but another reason why these main lines tripped was the smoke coming from coal-fired steel factories in North India. “This smoke of coal coupled with fog mixes together and becomes ‘smough’,” he said. “Its fag-end comes from Guddu to Lahore, which hits our aerial lines.”

Cheema said Pakistan should take up this matter with the Indian government to control environmental pollution. “The NTDC should also wash transmission lines frequently and more precisely in the affected areas.”

Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2016.


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