Widespread outages persist despite govt’s claim of ‘fully restoring’ power

Published January 24, 2023
<p>A laundryman uses cell phone as he sits at his shop during country-wide power breakdown in Peshawar. — Reuters</p>

A laundryman uses cell phone as he sits at his shop during country-wide power breakdown in Peshawar. — Reuters

<p>Students attend a class at a government high secondary school during a nationwide power outage in Rawalpindi on January 23. — AFP</p>

Students attend a class at a government high secondary school during a nationwide power outage in Rawalpindi on January 23. — AFP

A day after a massive breakdown hit Pakistan, Minister for Energy Khurram Dastgir said on Tuesday that electricity has been fully restored at grid stations across the country. However, major cities, including Karachi, Quetta and Lahore, remained deprived of power.

“Power at all 1,112 stations of the national grid has been restored,” Dastgir tweeted.

In a televised address at 10am, the minister explained that there was a “delay in synchronisation” between Tarbela and Mangla power plants.

“But with the support of the Power Division, Wapda and other departments, we fixed the technical problem after which power at systems across the country was restored.

“Today, at 5:15am, the system was completely restored across the country,” Dastgir said.

 Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan gives a press briefing following the nationwide power outage in Islamabad on January 24. — AFP
Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan gives a press briefing following the nationwide power outage in Islamabad on January 24. — AFP

However, the minister pointed out that there will be a shortage of electricity for the next two days.

He elaborated that approximately 6,600 megawatts of coal and 3,500MW of nuclear plants would take an estimated 48 to 72 hours to restart. “Until these plants start running, there will be limited load management, excluding industrial users.”

Dastgir further said that there was no fuel shortage in the country. “We are considerate of the electricity bills people have to pay and try not to unnecessarily use power plants that require a lot of energy.”

Talking about the investigation into the breakdown, the minister said that the government suspected “foreign intervention such as hacking of systems”.

“But its chances are very less. There have been incidents previously and we have to rule out this thing,” he added.

Dastgir also blamed the PTI government for the electricity breakdown, saying that it had not worked on upgrading the systems.

However, contrary to the government’s claims, a number of areas across the country were still deprived of power as of Tuesday morning.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif apologised for the prolonged breakdown and vowed to fix responsibility.

“On behalf of my government, I would like to express my sincere regrets for the inconvenience our citizens suffered due to power outage yesterday,” he said on Twitter. “On my orders an inquiry is underway to determine reasons of the power failure. Responsibility will be fixed.”

Cabinet wants formulation of strategy for preventing outages

Meanwhile, the federal cabinet directed the authorities concerned to formulate a comprehensive strategy to prevent the recurrence of power outages.

The cabinet, in a meeting chaired by the prime minister, also approved a nationwide public awareness drive on conserving power, water, gas and other resources.

During the meeting, PM Shehbaz expressed annoyance over the recent widespread breakdown. He said that the inconvenience caused to the nation was unacceptable and would not be tolerated in the future.

He called for fixing responsibility for the outage which had caused difficulties for the masses and the business community. He also instructed to identify the factors behind the breakdown and to take the necessary measures to prevent its recurrence.

Textile sector suffers estimated losses of $70m

Secretary general of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association Shahid Sattar estimated losses of $70 million to the sector, the country’s largest exporter and crucial booster of foreign exchange reserves.

Around 90 per cent of factories shut down on Monday with gas supplies too “patchy” to stand in, he said.

“Each time there is a power cut the mill has to be restarted from scratch, which takes up a lot of time and resources,” he told AFP.

“We can’t pick up from where we stopped. All that thread that’s in the middle of being dyed and treated, et cetera, cannot be used again. So we face massive losses that way.”

The economy is already hobbled by rampant inflation, a falling rupee and severely low foreign exchange reserves, with the power cut piling extra pressure on small businesses.

Outages reported in Karachi

In Karachi, outages were reported in Defence, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, North Karachi, Federal B Areas, Gulshan, Jacob Lines, Korangi, Landhi and Qayyumabad.

On Tuesday afternoon, K-Electric spokesperson Imran Rana said power supply to residential and commercial feeders in the metropolis had returned to normal.

“The rehabilitation of industrial feeders is also underway, but it will take some time,” he tweeted, adding that local faults at the regional level may disrupt the supply.

Earlier in the day, Rana said electricity had been restored at important installations in the city, including airports, hospitals and water pumping stations.

“However, to keep the system stable, limited temporary load management can be done in the city,” Rana said.

Electricity restored in KP

Chief executive of Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco), Arif Mehmood Sadozai, said that power had been restored across the province.

In a statement, he further said that power had also been restored to all the industries falling under the power’s utility’s jurisdiction.

He further said that loadshedding could be carried out on a limited scale due to “load management”. “Power has been restored to all 112 grid stations,” he said, adding that he was personally overseeing the matter.

Electricity to be fully restored in Balochistan by tonight: Qesco

On the other hand, the spokesperson of the Quetta Electric Supply Company told Dawn.com that electricity was partially restored across Balochistan from the 220kV Uch-Sibbi transmission line.

In Quetta, he said, power was being supplied from the 132kV Sibbi- Quetta circuit transmission line.

“We have also restored electricity at grid stations in Dera Murad Jamali, Rojhan Jamali and Gandakha, Bhag, Jhal Magsi, Usta Muhammad, Sohbatpur, Sui, Sibbi, Dhadar and Machh.”

Further improvement in the power situation will come after the Dera Ghazi Khan-Loralai transmission line is repaired, the Qesco spokesperson added. “God willing, electricity will be fully restored in Quetta and other areas by tonight.”

Another frequency issue in Lahore

Separately, the Lahore Electric Supply Company said that another “frequency issue” was reported in Lahore.

“After yesterday’s major power breakdown, power was restored in all areas of Lesco late at night. However, load management is being done in some areas due to a frequency issue,” it tweeted.

“Electricity will be restored without interruption as soon as the situation improves,” it added.

US sympathises with Pakistanis affected by power outages

Meanwhile, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price, at a weekly press briefing on Monday, was asked to comment on whether the US had any plans to assist Pakistan to overcome energy shortage in the wake of massive power breakdown in the country.

“Of course, I’ve seen what has transpired in Pakistan. Our thoughts are with all those who’ve been affected by the outages,” Price responded.

He said the US had assisted its Pakistani partners across a number of challenges. “We are prepared to do so in this case if there is something that we’re able to provide. But I’m not aware of any particular requests,” he added.


Additional input from APP

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