Smog takes toll on grid stations, major power breakdown lingers on

Dust blows as vehicles run along a road in Kathmandu, Nepal February 27, 2017. Picture taken February 27, 2017. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

ISLAMABAD: The phenomenon of smog may only be two years old in Pakistan but is proving to be an unparalleled menace for the people as well as public administration.

A threat of major power outage across the whole country lingers as excessive smog has caused major transmission circuits and grid stations to trip.

According to a statement released by the power division, the smog which has engulfed major portions of Punjab led to the tripping of 11 grid stations, each with a distributing capacity of either 200 or 500KV. The repeated tripping in the national grid also led to the forced closure of all Chashma Nuclear Power Plants, halting the supply of 1200 MW electricity as per the security protocols.

As per the power division’s disclosure, the power plants are expected to take up to 72 hours of maintenance work and technical support for their reactivation.

Meanwhile, the power division has directed the National Power Control Centre (NPCC) to chalk-out a well-managed emergency load management plan for 72 hours till the restoration of the 1200 MW nuclear power plants. NPCC is also preparing a separate load management plan to be implemented after 72 hours based on the supply and demand situation. The situation is expected to improve soon since the decreasing temperatures are lowering the electricity demand.

Furthermore, distribution companies have been directed to ensure maximum relief to consumers and to circulate load management plans to consumers in their respective areas for their information.

The closure of Chashma Power Plant comes in the wake of government’s decision to temporarily halt thermal electricity generation. The use of all furnace oil consuming power plants has been stopped due to smog.

Under the directions of the federal government, the power sector has shut down power plants generating a cumulative production of 4250MW electricity. The furnace oil plants include 950 MW Hubco, 1000 MW Muzafargarh, 400 MW Jamshoro and 700 MW KAPCO.

Furthermore, Nishat power, Nishar Chunian Power, Liberty, Hubco Narowal, Atlas and Kel have also been closed owing to the temporary ban on the use of furnace oil, removing additional 1200MW electricity from the national grid.

Hydel generation average has also come down to 2700MW against its capacity of 7000MW due to a lessening in the release of water from reservoirs on provinces’ demand.

The unprecedentedly severe and dense smog is posing serious challenges to the national transmission system while the power division, NPCC, National Transmission & Despatch Company (NTDC) and Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCO) are closely monitoring the situation. Special teams have been appointed by NTDC and DISCOs to meet any emergency situation due to the weather conditions. Patrolling of all high transmission lines has been increased by NTDC.

The power division has expressed regrets over the inconvenience likely to be caused and has requested consumers to conserve energy to minimize the load on the system. According to the Ministry of Water and Power, steps are being taken to come up with an efficient load management system to tackle the power shortage.