Power ‘restored’ after major breakdown hits country

Parts of Karachi still without electricity 8Senate panel summons KE CEO

Power was “fully restored” across the country after a major 12-hour power breakdown took place on Thursday – amounting to 8,000MW, according to the energy minister – depriving large swathes of the country, including Karachi and Lahore, of electricity.

“Electricity supply is being increased from alternative power plants, which will return to normal by Friday morning,” the Energy Ministry tweeted. However, media reports disputed the claim, saying that power was still not restored to large parts of Karachi, including Malir, Gulshan-i-Maymar, Super Highway and more.

Earlier, the ministry had attributed the breakdown to an “accidental fault” in the transmission system.

“Several power plants in the south are tripping in phases due to an accidental fault in the country’s southern transmission system. As a result, there have been disruptions in the supply of electricity to the country’s south,” the ministry said in a tweet.

At a press conference earlier in the day, Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir shared preliminary findings of the circumstances that led to the breakdown.

“This morning at 9:16am, our two 500kv lines in the south – Karachi – there was a fault in both of them. I am not calling it an accident yet, because an inquiry has yet to be conducted. […] there was a fault in them. As a result, the country’s southern region experienced a blackout.

“Our first priority was to isolate Karachi from it, and we were successful in doing so as we isolated Karachi from it by 9:45. By isolate, I mean that 1,000MW that we provide to Karachi daily was cut. But KE’s system is being independently operated and supplying electricity to [parts of] the city.”

He said as a result of the two power lines in which the fault developed, parts of Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Quetta, and partially in Multan and Faisalabad experienced power breakdowns. Dastgir added that he was personally monitoring the progress of the restoration.

“As a result of this breakdown, a large part of our power plants are out of our system, around 8,000MW, of which we have restored 4,700MW,” he said. “Our biggest success is that we prevented a breakdown in the north. We limited the shutdown to the south through timely reconnection … the north was completely saved from the shutdown. He, however, insisted that there was no fault in the system in Karachi, only the transmission of 1,000MW from the national grid had been cut off. “When the plants will be restarted, 1,000MW supply will be restored [to the city].”

The minister hinted that human error could be responsible for the fault, though he wouldn’t confirm it until the inquiry team’s report is finalized. “When the inquiry team’s report is received, if we have to take disciplinary action in its light, we will,” he added. Later in the day, the Ministry for Power constituted a high-level inquiry committee to ascertain facts pertaining to the partial breakdown.

According to an order issued by the National Transmission and Despatch Company Limited (NTDC), the committee will be headed by Muhammad Mustafa – Lahore general manager (technical) – and comprise Anwar Ahmed Khan, Muhammad Ijaz Khan, and Muhammad Zakaria.

It stated that the committee will be required to determine the root cause of the default, ascertain if the faults leading to the blackout could have been prevented, and verify if measures taken by concerned departments were adequate. The committee will be required to submit a report within four days, the order added.

Separately, Senate’s Standing Committee on Power summoned K-Electric Chief Executive Officer Moonis Alvi and instructed police to arrest him and present him at the next meeting of the panel.

“Who is he? A gangster? What is this behavior,” Senator Saifullah Abro, the committee’s chairman, said in a meeting on Thursday. He said that time had passed but KE had still not managed to prepare an agreement for the purchase and sale of electricity.

The committee also expressed anger over Dastagir’s absence from the meeting.

Iftikhar Alam is a correspondent writing on religion, politics, agriculture, and energy. He takes people on a rich journey through the culture of Punjab. He tweets @imiftikharalam and can be reached at iftikharalam@live.com.

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