Unprecedented smog exposes inefficiency, mismanagement of power sector

Pic05-068 SUKKUR: Nov 05 – A motorist is passing through the smog on a bridge. ONLINE PHOTO by S P Khan
  • Despite surplus power generation capacity, large parts of country experiencing tripping, unannounced hours-long power cuts

  • Smog-triggered tripping has already led to forced closure of all Chashma Nuclear Power plants

ISLAMABAD: Despite tall claims of the government, prevailing smog coupled with dense fog have exposed the inefficiency and mismanagement of the power sector, as large parts of the country have been facing tripping and unannounced hours-long power cuts from last few days.

Through discussions with energy experts and background interviews, Pakistan Today has learnt that large parts of the country have been experiencing tripping and unannounced hours-long power cuts from last few days, which is expected to persist for one and half month, despite surplus power generation capacity.

Experts have said the government has destabilised the transmission and distribution system by pulling out above 4200MW without any planning. On top of that, smog and fog have adversely affected the power supply situation, which has led to tripping and thereby affecting circuits and grid stations in many parts of the country.

“Outdated transmission and distribution system of the country is unable to bear changing weather conditions,” experts said.

A spokesman for energy ministry was not available for a comment, despite repeated attempts to get updates on the power situation.

However, official sources in energy ministry on condition of anonymity said the power division has directed the National Power Control Centre (NPCC) to chalk out a well-managed emergency load management plan until restoration of power supply situation. They said dense levels of smog has posed a serious challenge to the national transmission system, and the power division, NPCC, NTDC and power distribution companies (Discos) were closely monitoring the situation. Special teams and lines formations have been deputed by the NTDC and Discos to meet any emergency situation due to the weather conditions. Patrolling of all high transmission lines has been increased by the NTDC.

According to a spokesman of NTDC, power supply to Bahawalpur, Multan and many other areas affected due to dense fog and smog caused tripping in the NTDC system. Also, NTDC teams busy in restoration work have been facing hardships, and the system is gradually improving.

“Energy ministry has advised the NTDC and all Discos to put their operational teams on alert, and patrolling of sensitive and important points of transmission system of the electricity,” said NTDC spokesman.

According to National Weather Forecast Centre of Pakistan Metrological Department, “Due to deficient/delayed winter rains, fog is likely to prevail in most of the plain areas of Punjab, upper Sindh, central and lower parts of KP during the month of November and December. Dense fog in the above areas is likely to dominate during mid-November to end of December 2017.”

It is crucial to note here that the smog-triggered tripping has already led to the forced closure of all Chashma Nuclear Power plants (C1, C2, C3, C4)—having a cumulative capacity of almost 1,200MW and need 72 hours for a full revival. Similarly, the hydel generation average, from last few days, has also come down to 2,700MW against its capacity of 7,000MW due to fewer releases of water from reservoirs as per the demand of the provinces.

Moreover, the SNGPL has reportedly curtailed 200 MMCFD gas supplies due to annual maintenance of regasification terminal at Karachi on Nov 3-7, resulting in a reduction of 500MW in the system.

Interestingly, however Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, while presiding over a meeting last week, directed the power division to gradually close down furnace oil and diesel-based plants and convert to LNG-based generation to avert the impact of looming capacity trap. Not only that, the power sector had also closed all expensive furnace oil and diesel-run power plants of a cumulative capacity of 4,250MW under the directions of the federal government.

The closed down furnace oil plants included 950MW Hubco, 1,000MW Muzaffargarh, 400MW Jamshoro and 700MW Kapco. The diesel/furnace oil-fired smaller plants which were closed under these directions were Nishat Power, Nishat Chunian Power, Liberty, Hubco Narowal, Atlas and Kel, of cumulative capacity of around 1,200MW.

The power system on Friday suffered a major breakdown and affected key parts of Punjab and Balochistan following the government’s decision to close down furnace oil and diesel-based power plants.

So far, the power system has not been fully revived.