THIS is apropos the report ‘Management issues caused countrywide breakdown: NTDC’ (March 17) dealing with the inquiry report by the National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC) about the countrywide blackout on Jan 9 that lasted for over 20 hours.
It does not have the whole truth as it raises many questions on its desired working and at the same time exposing the great pitfalls in planning, execution, operation and maintenance of the national power system.
The break-up of the Wapda power system into a number of autonomous generation and distribution companies, called Gencos and Discos, did not augur well technically as some of the tasks that are crucial for an efficient, secure and reliable power system were compromised in the name of decentralisation.
For example, there does not exist a single supreme ‘protection’ authority which is responsible for ensuring an optimal, reliable and discriminative power system operation against indiscriminate trippings and outages of transmission lines and power plants throughout the grid network. NTDC’s claim that its protection system detected the fault accurately and isolated the system in correct sequence and coordination is false. Had it been so, all the transmission lines and power plants from north to south would not have tripped and shut down.
The report admits that there have been inordinate delays in carrying out and in approval of studies for the provision of stability schemes, including the determination of electrical centres and the proposal of island operation in emergencies.
That there is no provision of black start in the power stations is highly deplorable. One wonders how a new power plant is given a go-ahead by the planners and regulators without the provision of in-built black start facility.
The NTDC statement that the fact that the system was restored without any equipment damage is the proof that its protection gear was in perfect working order is, again, not maintainable and to be proud of, as the protection system failed to isolate only the faulty part of the grid network while letting the remaining system to keep supplying power to the customers which is a pre-requisite of a well-designed and coordinated protection system.
The NTDC needs to stop blaming Guddu power plant for the nationwide blackout. Had its protection and control gear set and coordinated correctly throughout the power system, the tripping and outages of all the power plants and transmission network would not have taken place.
The inadequacy and incompetence of the National Power Control Centre (NPCC) has also come to the surface as its staff lacks the knowledge and technical skills necessary to quickly restore the power system in a relatively shorter time to save the nation of enormous financial loss and agony.
All is not well in NTDC and NPCC and a thorough, unbiased and independent third-party investigation into their affairs is warranted immediately to pinpoint the weaknesses and to correct them at the earliest. Otherwise, similar blackouts cannot be ruled out in future, which we can hardly afford.
Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2021