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Pakistan suffers major grid breakdown — what's causing country's worsening power crisis

Pakistan suffers major grid breakdown — what's causing country's worsening power crisis

Pakistan suffers major grid breakdown — what's causing country's worsening power crisis
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By Sangam Singh  Jan 24, 2023 6:25:53 PM IST (Updated)

Pakistan has enough installed power capacity to meet demand, but it lacks the resources to run its oil-and-gas-powered plants that are heavily in debt and cannot afford to invest in infrastructure and power lines

Pakistan's government said that it had finally restored its national power grid nearly 24 hours after a breakdown that triggered the worst outage in months. A large portion of Pakistan, from the capital Islamabad in the north to Karachi in the south was left without electricity after a grid failure on Monday. This was Islamic Republic's second power outage in three months.

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The outage hit internet and mobile phone services in the country along with several other critical services. Several companies and hospitals said they had switched to backup generators.
Possible cause of Pakistan's grid failure
Electricity grids fail or break down when there is a big mismatch between demand and supply. If the gap between supply and demand widens beyond a certain threshold, all generating stations are unplugged from the grid which results in a blackout.
Gas-fired utilities and hydropower plants are generally the best equipped to handle sudden fluctuations as electricity output can be ramped up and down quickly. However, other power plants such as coal or nuclear operate continuously, making them unsuitable to deal with sudden fluctuations.
Pakistan has enough installed power capacity to meet demand, but it lacks the resources to run its oil-and-gas-powered plants that are heavily in debt and cannot afford to invest in infrastructure and power lines. Pakistan typically meets more than a third of its annual power demand using imported natural gas.
Pakistan's Energy Ministry said that the system frequency of its National Grid went down causing a "widespread breakdown" in the power system. As per him, a large voltage surge in the south of the country affected the entire network.
Khurrum Dastgir, the Energy Minister, told Pakistan's Geo TV channel that due to low power demand in winter nights, some power generators were being taken off the grid. When the power generators came back onto the grid on Monday morning, there was a sudden voltage fluctuation, after which the power-generating units shut down one by one.
Dastgir did not say what type of power generators were disconnected.
But several analysts blame the power problems on an ageing electricity network, which like much of the national infrastructure, desperately needs an upgrade. 
It is not immediately clear what the exact cause of Pakistan's grid breakdown.
Last year in October, Bangladesh also went through a similar crisis when the country suffered a grid failure that led to outages in nearly three-quarters of the nation for 10 hours.
What lies ahead?
A senior official told Reuters that all 1,112 grid stations were back online, adding that electricity would be fully restored across the country once power generation units were back up.
Pakistan's government began restoring power to millions of people soon after the crisis hit the nation. An inquiry has been launched into the outage, which began at around 7 am local time and lasted more than 12 hours during the peak winter season.
Dastgir tweeted on Monday evening that power was beginning to return in parts of the capital Islamabad and the southwest province of Baluchistan.
Pakistan's economic hub Karachi is likely to see electricity restored in the next three to four hours, a spokesperson for K-Electric Ltd, the southern city's power provider said.
-With inputs from Reuters
 
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