Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has hit out at the Power Division over poor response and keeping him in dark about investigation into a major power breakdown, caused by the halt to nuclear energy supply owing to the use of old conductors.
Briefing a cabinet meeting, chaired by PM Shehbaz, about the recent disruption to electricity supply that triggered blackout in the entire country, the Power Division told the premier that probe was also conducted into a major breakdown in October 2022.
It revealed that nuclear power plants were shut down due to the use of old conductors. However, in the case of the latest breakdown, data was available and it was still being analysed.
The PM inquired as to why the cabinet was not briefed on reasons for the October 2022 breakdown and expressed his displeasure over the absence of a satisfactory response.
Referring to the latest breakdown in the national electricity grid, which cut off power supply across the country, the PM stated that the news had not only been reported by the local media, but it was also carried by the international news channels and newspapers, creating a very negative perception of Pakistan.
The blackout caused great inconvenience to citizens all across Pakistan. The premier told the cabinet that a committee, headed by the minister of state for petroleum, had been constituted to unearth the facts and the people responsible would be made accountable.
Power minister briefed the cabinet that at 7:34am on January 23, fluctuations occurred in the main North-South transmission line and as a result grids tripped automatically due to an inbuilt safety mechanism. “Factors that triggered outages are still being looked into,” he said.
The cabinet was told that the country mainly depended on Tarbela power plant, which shut down due to frequency synchronisation problems. Teams were sent to Tarbela to restore power supply and by 10pm the problem was largely resolved and most of the grid stations were brought back to operation.
By 5am on January 24, electricity supply was restored for all 1,112 grid stations, the minister said.
Some areas, nonetheless, were still experiencing abnormal outages as nuclear and coal-based power plants took two to three days to come back fully online.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Water Resources was requested to increase water supply to compensate for the power shortfall with hydel generation. The power minister assured cabinet members that report of the committee constituted to probe the reasons for the recent power breakdown would be presented to the forum.
Though Pakistan was facing gas shortages, cabinet members stressed the need for issuing directives for completing the gas schemes that lacked the required funds.
However, not a single cabinet member raised the issue of gas load-shedding. The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) is legally bound to stop future schemes if the existing consumers are not receiving supplies. However, it has continued to allow gas utilities to start new schemes in different constituencies of parliamentarians.
Highlighting the pending gas connections, a cabinet member requested that the schemes approved before 2013 and for which funds were available should be completed.
Another member recommended that the areas where gas had been discovered should be given connections on priority. The PM desired that the issues be placed before a steering committee.
The cabinet gave directives that the report of the committee constituted to probe the reasons for the recent power breakdown should be presented to it.
It also issued directives for the pending gas projects for which funds were available and the provision of gas connections on priority.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2023.
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