LAHORE: A number of cities, towns and villages in Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan suffered 12 to 16 hours of power outage after 500kV transmission lines and all turbines of the Guddu thermal power plant tripped because of dense fog and pollution in the early hours of Sunday morning, causing a shortage of 1,100MW of electricity.

The affected districts included Rahimyar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Bahawal­pur, Multan and Khanewal in Punjab, Kashmor, Ghotki and adjoining areas in Sindh and some areas in Balochistan along the borders with Punjab and Sindh that are fed through the National Transmission and Despatch Company’s (NTDC) 500kV and 220kV transmission lines.

On the other hand, the 132kV transmission lines/grid stations’ system operated and maintained by distribution companies (Disco), especially Sepco, Mepco, Fesco, Gepco and Lesco, continued to face tripping problems because of foggy weather. This was in addition to routine shutdowns for maintenance in winter, leaving consumers without electricity for several hours for the past couple of days.

“It was the worst tripping of the NTCD’s 500kV transmission lines that finally broke down all our turbines at the Guddu plant generating about 1,100MW electricity and adding it to the national grid,” the plant’s chief Ayub Ansari said.

“The lines tripped at about 3am, breaking down the plant’s all operative machines/turbines one by one. The restoration of supply to various districts and towns of Punjab and Sindh and Balochistan began after one of the machines (turbines) started generating 150MW at about 3pm. And by 6pm supply to all the affected areas was restored,” he added.

He said the NTDC’s 500kV transmission system had tripped because of moisture caused by dense fog, adding that due to short supply of gas (250MMCFD), the Guddu plant, which had an installed capacity of over 2,300MW, was now generating 1,100MW.

An NTDC spokesman, however, rejected Mr Ansari’s claim, stating that the Guddu plant’s tripping had caused tripping of the 500kV transmission lines. “There was no issue with our 500kV lines. When the Guddu plant tripped, its impact transferred to our lines that finally stopped working, leaving many areas without power for several hours,” the spokesman explained.

Talking to Dawn, NTDC General Manager (National Power Control Centre) Ilyas Ahmed said it was not the issue which tripped first — transmission lines or power plants — the weather was the main problem affecting “our power transmission and dispatch system”.

“We have to see what is creating the problem. And that is fog,” he added.

Asked if there was any process that could keep the lines, cables and wires clean for smooth supply of electricity, he said the NTDC officials were helpless before the dense fog and pollution.

Mr Ahmed added that it couldn’t be accurately said how many areas were being supplied electricity generated by the Guddu plant. “I just say that all sorts of energy generated through hydel, thermal, solar, wind, etc, are received by the NPCC first and then distributed across the country. And I am of the view that Guddu plant’s 1,100MW is shared among all the provinces.”

The Lahore Electric Supply Company’s chief executive officer said fog was also causing tripping of 132kV transmission lines and grid stations of Lesco, Fesco, Gepco and Mepco in Punjab. “Before my appointment, a tender was floated for purchasing machine/equipment meant for washing/cleaning 132kV transmission lines’ disks to minimise tripping, but it was cancelled due to some legal and technical problems. And now we are going for a re-tender in this regard.”

He said that had such machine worth Rs100 million been available in the country, “we would have already purchased it”.

“Now we are heading for a process these days to buy it (machine) from abroad through a tender,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2016

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