Thursday September 28, 2023

Power blackout: Little chance of system hacking, says Khurram Dastgir

Khurram Dastgir said that the entire power system was fully restored at 5.14 am Tuesday across the country

By Agencies
January 25, 2023
Minister for Power Division Engineer Khurram Dastgir. PID file
Minister for Power Division Engineer Khurram Dastgir. PID file 

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Power Division Engineer Khurram Dastgir on Tuesday said that the entire power system was fully restored at 5.14 am Tuesday across the country.

Addressing a press conference here, the minister said despite restoring the system, there would be a shortage of electricity for the next two days as the nuclear power plants required 48-72 hours to start supplying electricity to the system.

Similarly, the coal power plants required around 48 hours for synchronisation, he said. Yesterday, one unit of each Sahiwal and Engro Coal Power plant had also started working.

He said the government suspected foreign intervention such as hacking of systems. “But its chances are very few. There have been incidents previously and we have to rule out this thing,” he added.

There would be a shortage of electricity for the next 48 hours and limited power load-shedding would be carried out, he added. However, he made it clear that industrial consumers would be exempted from the power load-shedding as per the policy of the government.

Khurram Dastgir said yesterday there was a ‘delay in synchronization between Tarbela and Mangla power plants’ but with the support of Power Division, Wapda and Water Resource Ministry, they fixed the technical problem after which power systems across the country were restored. He said the entire transmission system remained safe and no incident of any damage was reported during Monday’s country-wide power breakdown.

While dispelling rumours about the shortage of fuel, he categorically said that there was no fuel shortage in the country. Sufficient fuel was available and it was used to restore the power system, he added.

The minister said, “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.” He said in January, there was the lowest power demand in the country and on Monday night it stood at 8,615MW.

Despite the extensive breakdown, there were some areas in the federal capital and Peshawar where the electricity remained available all the time, he said, adding that similarly, there was no disruption in power in the flood-hit areas of Sindh and Balochistan. Khurram Dastgir said the prime minister has set up three-member body under Dr Musadik Malik to probe the incident.

To a question, he said no investment was made in the transmission and generation system during the last four years by the PTI government as per the increasing demand.

A few months ago, some parts of the country witnessed limited power breakdown due to the installation of 20-year-old conductors in sensitive power plants during the PTI government tenure. He said HVDC Matiari-Lahore Transmission Line, which was completed under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has only some protective mechanisms. They were working to bring innovation to ensure safety mechanisms in the transmission system.

Replying to another question, he said the power supply has also been restored to Quetta Electric Supply Company and only routine load-shedding was being carried out.

The nuclear power plants at Karachi and Chashma have not yet started work and it would take 48-72 hours. The minister said the incumbent coalition government laid the foundation for many grid stations and transmission systems of Rs80 billion in the last few months.

The PM would lay the foundation of a mega grid station in Mansehra in the next few weeks, which would ensure smooth transmission of electricity generated through the Diamer Basha and other such mega projects. He said these new grid stations were part of the expansion plan but unfortunately the past government did nothing in this regard.

To a query, the minister said the NTDC has the latest water cannon to clean conductors installed at various transmission lines.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday expressed his regret over the inconvenience suffered by the general public after a major power outage hit the country on Monday. “On behalf of my government, I would like to express my sincere regrets for the inconvenience our citizens suffered due to power outage on Monday,” he posted on his Twitter handle.

The prime minister, who formed a high-level inquiry committee on the matter, said responsibility of the power breakdown would be fixed. “On my orders, an inquiry is underway to determine reasons of the power failure. Responsibility will be fixed,” he said.

Our correspondent adds: Meanwhile, the federal cabinet directed the authorities concerned to formulate a comprehensive strategy to prevent the recurrence of prolonged power outages in future and also approved a nationwide public awareness drive on conservation of power, water, gas and other resources.

Chaired by Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, the cabinet observed that energy conservation efforts at public, private, domestic and commercial level would help reduce the oil import bill, which had increased considerably during the last seven years. It was also observed that behavioral changes would also save billions of rupees worth of foreign exchange and reduce the electricity bills of individuals by 30 to 40 percent.

The meeting also called for inclusion of the subject of best international practices on energy conservation in the educational curriculum.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb gave a detailed briefing to the cabinet on National Awareness and Communication Strategy for Energy Conservation under which a long-term awareness drive would be launched. The strategy was okayed an appreciated by the cabinet members. The awareness drive is aimed at guiding the citizens about energy conservation, which would not only benefit them in person but also help reduce the economic burden from the country.

The information minister said prior to the drive, the ministry carried out the first comprehensive survey to seek public opinion on energy conservation. The ministry prepared an awareness drive which would focus on developing people’s habits, lifestyle and behaviour for energy conservation. It would also seek support from print, electronic and social media as well as public opinion makers and experts for the awareness drive, which would be run in collaboration with the public and private institutions.

The meeting was told that due to import of the petroleum products, the country’s import bill swelled from 18% in 2017 to 29% in 2022.

The prime minister directed for taking the caretaker governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa into confidence on the energy conservation plans to ensure their effective implementation.