Smog-hit power plants will take 45 days to recover fully, says minister

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ISLAMABAD: The power supply situation, which has been adversely affected by smog in Punjab, is expected to fully recover in the next one and a half months, State Minister for Water and Power Awais Leghari said on Saturday.

The statement comes after a major threat of power outages across the whole country became apparent after the closure of several power plants due to the weather situation in Punjab.

According to a statement released by the power division on Nov 3, 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 1,200 MW electricity as per the security protocols.

As per the power division’s disclosure, the power plants were expected to take up to 72 hours of maintenance work and technical support for their reactivation. However, according to the latest statement by the power minister, complete restoration of electricity in the country could take up to 45 days.

Meanwhile, the power division has directed the National Power Control Centre (NPCC) to chalk-out a well-managed emergency load management plan till the restoration of the 1200 MW nuclear power plants.

Coupled with the closure of Chashma Power Plant, hydel generation average has also come down to 2700MW against its capacity of 7000MW due to a decrease in the release of water from reservoirs on provinces’ demand.

The shortfall of electricity continues to grow, also due to the 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 Muzaffargarh, 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.

NPCC is also preparing a separate load management plan to be implemented based on the supply and demand situation and keeping in mind the technical problems that may arise due to smog situation in the country.

Leghari said that national institutions were not paying their bills which led to a severe shortage of funds for the power department. He recommended that to overcome the problem, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) will have to amend the relevant laws in the larger national interest.

He said in view of the shortage of electricity, 30,000 tube wells will also have to be converted to the solar system.

The minister stated that complaints were being received against Distribution Companies (DISCOS) and a decision for awarding three years jail for those indulging in overbilling will be taken soon. At the same time, he emphasised that DISCOS will have to improve their functioning to reduce circular debt.

The minister stated that the power transmission system has improved with the joining of Chinese power companies, including Shanghai Electric and Abraaj Group.