Technical fault in electricity breakdown is common and has been substantiated in developed countries, for instance, the August 2020 blackout in California due to the heatwave and India Blackout in 2012. Other countries’ examples also exist but it is not the concern of the topic. Our concern is the latest Blackout on late Saturday night in the entire Country of Pakistan. This was the third large electricity breakdown in five years in the country, the first two happened in 2015 and 2018 respectively.
The initial reports of the Saturday breakdown alleged that it takes place due to the negligence of the staff in the Guddu Thermal Power Plant – located in Sindh province. The government suspended seven employees, including manager and six junior officials. However, the government was quick in response by restoring electricity in hours in major cities and suspending the responsible. Nevertheless, there are several flaws in the Pakistan power sector, which if not addressed now, will lead to such incidence in the future.
A senior official of the power sector told Dawn, that the government is running the energy sector on an ad hoc basis, a main cause in the mismanagement of the system. For instance, the three main companies of energy are working without permanent Chief Executive Officers. Take the examples of the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC), which is functioning without a regular chief executive since 2017. NTDC, as its name specifies, oversees the transmission system of the National Grid in the country. If it was operating in a true manner its protection system should have warned against the tripping in the Guddu station and have distanced it from the national grid. Its function is to stop the transmission frequency from dropping out, to stop the cascading of the entire power plants of the country. National Power Control Centre (NPCC), hasn’t seen a permanent CEO for more than a decade. The company is responsible for the electricity flow to different distribution companies. It monitors the frequency balance and proper loading of the supply system. Guddu power plant, where the issue arises, is run by Central Power Generation Company (CPGC), which is also operating without a permanent head.
While the aforementioned are the institutional faults confronted by the power sector, there are also environmental challenges faced by the energy sector. The Guddu-Sibbi transmission line is located in extreme fog prone region and in winter its one of the environmental challenges. The fog affects the transmission line which then ought to be washed but in Pakistan, this exercise has been rarely practiced. After the 2015 blackout, the previous government claimed that it has upgraded the protection system of the transmission line but the latest breakdown indicates that they didn’t upgrade or their upgrade wasn’t of a high standard, said one retired officer. He further added the sudden fall from 50hz to zero is because of the errors in the frequency relay system.
Another hindrance in electricity generation and distribution is the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa low generation of electricity in winter due to the low hydropower generation and some other reasons. These provinces fulfill their dire needs of electricity from the power plants based in Sindh and Balochistan which in turn increased the burden on these power plants and caused the total breakdown of electricity.
However, there are other multiple reasons for power breakdown which are yet to be discussed, but the above pointed out is enough for understanding the causes of a blackout. The institutional reforms being widely discussed but not formulated or implemented is one of the big reasons for the uplifting and smooth functioning of our institution. Climate changes are not more confined to our atmosphere and environment it has started to damage the very source of energy. The August 2020 blackout in California due to heatwave and wind wasn’t blowing to generate electricity and the recent blackout in which fog is one of the leading factors.