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Pakistan Faces Nationwide Power Outage, Country Slips Into Darkness Overnight

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  • Tip Bones

On Saturday, Pakistan faced a huge power cut across the country, after a breakdown at the southern power plant plunged several major cities into darkness.

Starting at about 21:40 on Saturday, homes, and industries across Pakistan started filing complaints about experiencing various power disruptions, including low voltage, fluctuations, and phase failures. This was followed by a major blackout at around midnight, which drove the city into darkness. The affected areas included major urban centers like Karachi, Lahore, and Multan, as well as the capital city Islamabad. Some smaller towns and cities also reported power outages.

It was then, subsequently realized that a major fault at the Guddu Thermal Power Plant in Kashmore, Sindh had caused the outage, prompting authorities to take quick notice of the situation.  

The cause of the fault, however, wasn’t determined immediately as there was a lot of fog in the area restricting visibility. Speaking to the press, Pakistan’s Energy Minister Omar Ayub stated that teams were waiting for the fog to peter out to ascertain the location and specific cause of the failure at the powerplant.

"We don't know the reasons at this time since we'd sent teams at night to Guddu [power plant] and there was a lot of fog, nothing could be seen at the time [...] as the day goes on and the fog clears, the investigation will be conducted [to ascertain] where the fault occurred."

Later during the night, Ayub explained in technical terms the reason behind the outage. He said that within seconds the frequency of supply dropped, and began shutting down the safety systems of the power plant one after another. The minister said that this was similar to a fuse blowing which has to be manually reset, and the power plant being shut down had affected the entire country.

“The fault caused the country’s high transmission lines to trip, which in turn caused the system frequency to drop from 50 to 0 in less than a second,” Ayub explained. “The drop in frequency caused power plants to shut down.”

Restoration work then began well after midnight, and it was revealed that it would take at least a few hours to restore the supply to the entire electricity grid. Meanwhile, the Tarbela Power Station, located on the Indus River about 50 km northwest of the capital Islamabad, was fired up, allowing for partial restoration of power in major cities like Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad.

Recently, power has been restored across many cities in the country. Electricity has been recovered in the cities of Faislabad, Multan, and Jhang, and K-electric, an investor-owned utility provider that supplies power to Karachi has been provided with 400MVA. Ayub, in fact, is continuously tweeting the list of areas and regions which have been powered back following the fault.

Federal ministers have, for years, criticized the government of Pakistan for focusing only on power generation and not on the transmission system. They had hoped that with the new PTI government assuming office, things would change. But no work has been done to rehabilitate the transmission system so far.

"Under the government of PML-N, the country saw eight major power breakdowns," said the energy minister. "When the incumbent government assumed office, no work had been done to upgrade the transmission system. We are now investing in the transmission and distribution system. A $6 billion transmission line has been laid in Matiari."

Power outages, even at the national scale are not uncommon in Pakistan. In 2013, the country’s electricity network broke down completely after a power plant in south-western Balochistan province developed a technical fault. Essential facilities such as hospitals often use diesel-fuelled generators as a back-up power supply, because power interruptions and load-shedding happen regularly in Pakistan.

Source: BBC