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LAHORE: The city and adjoining districts witnessed on Thursday forced outages for hours in addition to scheduled loadshedding along with low voltage, tripping and other system constraints.

The problems developed after Bhikki and Sapphire power plants went out of the system for maintenance purposes that led to lowering the local generation and overloading the 500kV system of the National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC).

“Since everyone was already disturbed due to increased loadshedding, forced outages added to miseries of the public at large,” Munir, a resident of Multan Road, said.

“Why is it going on when the government claims to have increased generation in the country?” he said.

Officials said RLNG-fired Bhikki power plant stopped generation after it was closed for some technical inspections.

“Bhikki plant has been closed for inspections that include checking some combined cycle conversion activities. The process takes three days that was already planned. So there is no problem with the plant so far,” explained Mr Ahad Khan Cheema, chief executive officer of the Quaid-i-Azam Thermal Power (Private) Limited.

“Please keep in mind that Bhikki is an under-construction plant. And it will have many such closures in the near future,” he added.

According to a senior official of the National Power Control Centre, a department of NTDC, Lahore and its surrounding areas faced [acute] low voltage issue after decrease in local generation. “But in the evening the situation improved after hydel generation at Mangla considerably increased from 250MW to 850MW. So [this] generation gap was filled by Mangla,” NPCC General Manager Ilyas Ahmad told Dawn.

He claimed that the country’s shortfall ranged between 3,500 and 4,000MW on Thursday after hydel generation reached 6,300MW. And it would cross 6,500MW in the next couple of days. The maximum total generation recorded was 18,800MW, while the demand crossed 22,500MW. “The generation will increase more after return of the aforementioned plants into the system,” the official claimed.

On the other hand, a Lahore Electric Supply Company official termed Thursday worst in view of the outages. Owing to low generation, the NTDC’s 500kV system in Sheikhupura overloaded that weakened the 220kV and 132kV system further.

“Since the 500kV dropped to 470kV, it badly affected the 220kV and 132kV system. Therefore, they (the NTDC/NPCC people) got forced loadshedding done throughout the day,” the official, who preferred anonymity, told this reporter.

He said throughout the day around 15 grid stations were shut off and on to save the system in the light of NPCC instructions.

He said Federal Water and Power Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar took notice of the [worsening] situation and directed Wapda to increase indent at Mangla so as to improve hydel generation.

He said constraints at NTDC’s 500kV system were also among various reasons behind Thursday’s problems in Lahore and adjoining areas.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2017