pakistan
Tuesday Jan 24 2023
By
Web Desk

Govt to probe ‘foreign intervention’ behind back-to-back power system failure: Khurram Dastgir

By
Web Desk
Power Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan speaking at a press conference on January 24, 2023. — YouTube screengrab/Hum News Live
Power Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan speaking at a press conference on January 24, 2023. — YouTube screengrab/Hum News Live 
  • Ministry says all 1,112 grid stations restored within 24 hours. 
  • Despite govt claims some areas yet to get electricity.
  • Pakistan plunged into darkness Monday morning when national grid went offline.


Power Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan Tuesday said that the government is concerned about the back-to-back failure of the national grid and will investigate whether the system was “hacked” by external forces.

While speaking at a press conference, 24 hours after the country plunged into darkness due to a “frequency” fault in the transmission system, the minister said that the “possibility of foreign intervention through the internet is low,” however, the matter will be probed as there have been multiple incidents recently.

The federal minister said that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has formed a three-member inquiry committee which will be headed by Minister of State for Petroleum Musadik Malik.

Dastgir further said that there will be a shortage of electricity and the citizens will face loadshedding in the next 48 hours. He added that the system will be completely restored by Thursday.

He said that National Transmission and Despatch Company's (NTDC) 1,112 grid stations across Pakistan have been restored.

"The electricity was completely restored today at 5:15am," he added.

However, people were complaining in Karachi that the supply has not been fully restored in the city and many areas are still offline even after the government claims the power is up there and some areas in the country that are yet to get electricity. 

The power minister said that the nuclear plants will take about 48 to 72 to restart while the coal plant requires 48 hours to resume operations. He added that the power distribution system is safe.

"We faced a technical challenge Monday morning. There was a voltage fluctuation in the transmission lines and the reason behind it is still unknown," he added.

Dastgir added that electricity is required to start a power plant, adding that the country has plenty of oil to run power plants.

Talking about the power outage in Karachi, the minister said that supply will be restored in the port city soon. "Routine loadshedding is being carried out," he added.

He highlighted that this was a technical issue which led to the breakdown in the country.

Dastgir said that the power in areas served by Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) and Islamabad Electric Supply Company (ISCO) was restored today morning.

Moreover, the electricity in the flood-affected areas in Sindh and Balochistan was restored yesterday.

The minister said that he will submit a report regarding the power breakdown to PM Shehbaz today.

Blaming the previous Imran Khan-led government for this incident, Khurram Dastgir said that it is the outcome of four years of incompetence and criminal negligence.

"We have to work on the upgradation of grid systems in Faisalabad, Lahore, and Zhob as these stations are four-year-old," he said, adding that only Matiari–Lahore transmission line has a protection system.

When asked whether he will resign as there have been two breakdowns during his tenure, Dastgir said that those who didn't invest in the project in the last four years should be held responsible.

KE says ‘all grid stations functional’

On the other hand, a K-Electric spokesperson said that currently “all grid stations in the city are functional” and the restoration process is underway at the local level.

In its power update at 9:34am, the power utility added that the situation has improved further in the metropolis after the supply was restored from the national grid last night.

“Electricity has been restored to important installations including airports, hospitals, water pumping stations etc.”

The official, however, added that temporary load management can be done in the city to keep the system stable.

What had happened?

The country plunged into darkness Monday morning due to a fault in the national grid which Power Minister Khurram Dastgir blamed on a "voltage surge" in transmission lines in the country's South.

Soon after the power breakdown was reported, Dastgir, while talking to Geo News, said that the power generation units are temporarily shut down in winter at night as an economic measure to save fuel costs.

“When the systems were turned on at 7:30am this morning one by one, frequency variation was reported in the southern part of the country between Jamshoro and Dadu," the minister had said on Monday.

Analysts and officials blame the power problems on an ageing electricity network, which like much of the national infrastructure, desperately needs an upgrade that the government says it can ill afford.

PM's committee, NEPRA's notice

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took strict notice of the power outage and ordered the constitution of a high-level three-member committee to probe the reason behind the breakdown.

The prime minister — who was annoyed due to the impact of the breakdown — also sought a report from the energy minister, a statement from the PM's Office said.

The prime minister also directed the officials to immediately restore the electricity supply.

The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), in a statement, also said that it has taken "serious notice" of the power outage and directed the NTDC to submit a "detailed report".

The statement also said that the regulator has previously imposed fines on similar outages in 2021 and 2022. It also shared that NEPRA has consistently issued directives and recommendations on tackling such events in the future.

Internet and mobile services

Following the prolonged nationwide power breakdown, there were also reports regarding mobile and internet services being affected in cities in different pockets.

Telecom companies had also run out of stored fuel to temporarily run their towers and ensure a smooth flow of services causing a delay in providing services to consumers.

Losses worth '$70m'

The power outage also led to business closures resulting in massive losses.

The textile sector suffered a massive loss amounting to $70 million so far due to the breakdown, a spokesperson of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) had said on Monday.

The spokesperson maintained that the massive power failure badly affected industries across the country.

Previous breakdown

In October of last year, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Quetta, Multan, and Faisalabad were hit by a power outage.

At that time, the power minister said that nearly 8,000 megawatts of power went offline.

Back then, Dastgir had said that the simultaneous faults in two power lines, which had triggered the breakdown, at the same time was concerning for the government. He had also announced that an in-depth inquiry was ordered and promised action.

Timeline of power outages

The country's generation and distribution network has suffered eight major power breakdowns during the last nine years.

In 2014 and 2017, nationwide blackouts were caused by a fault in Tarbela Power Station while fog, frequency variation and the Guddu Power Plant fault were blamed for breakdowns in 2015, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Every time the party in power announced to conduct a comprehensive probe and vowed to rectify the issues but nothing has happened despite multiple inquiries.