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June 13, 2021

Twin energy crisis may bring country to virtual standstill

LAHORE: A massive twin energy crisis has started unfolding with potentially bringing the country to a virtual standstill, as gas paucity resurfaced right in the middle of summer, following massive shortfall of up to 6000mw of electricity.

Natural gas supplies have to be diverted from the CNG sector and industry to power generation in a bid to save the national grid from total collapse. However, it had its toll on the already stressed gas powerpack, which started faltering to such an extent that CNG supply had been suspended in Sindh province and curtailed in Punjab. The industry also had to bear the brunt of gas shortage in the shape of severe pressure drop. A delegation of the textile industry met top management of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd to convey its concerns about the cut in gas supplies.

In a desperate move, Regasified, Liquefied Natural Gas (RLNG), commonly known as imported gas, has been diverted to three gas plants located around central power load-centre in Balloki, Bhikki and Haveli Bahadur Shah, having a cumulative generation capacity of 3,600mw. On the other hand, outflow from Tarbela dam is also being increased which helped in augmenting hydropower for meeting ever increasing demand for electricity.

The Ministry of Energy claimed that forced load-shedding had ended since June 11 afternoon. It seems that it is being considered a major achievement while totally ignoring routine outages, being witnessed on account of transmission and distribution constraints, technical faults and mandatory load-shedding in high losses areas across the country.

It appears that the newly appointed minister overlooked the fact that ‘forced load management’ was done in emergency situations to avoid total breakdown of the national grid, as system frequency starts dipping to critical level. This was done through massive shedding of load to the tune of thousands of megawatts in a stretch by National Power and Regional Power Control Centres, said sources. During such an eventuality, power supply to cities after cities spanning over large swaths were shut down within shortest possible time through a centralised system to stabilise national grid, following a sudden gap in demand and supply. Forced load-shedding is done in addition to planned outages, technical faults and massive suspension in high power losses areas.

In this exercise, if an hour’s load-shedding is done across the country, 900mw were omitted from the system. Hence, if there is on average seven to eight hours of forced load-shedding in the country, it simply translates to 6000mw plus shortfall against the demand. Early this week, there were numerous complaints of prolonged unscheduled outages from most parts of the country.

However, a spokesman for the Ministry of Energy insisted that the average shortfall remained average 1000mw at maximum during the whole crisis. However, when he was asked to share any document of average shortfall, he said whatever information was being given through the minister’s twitter handle is there to be consulted. A spokesman for the National Transmission & Dispatch Company (NTDC) also expressed his inability when he was asked to share a similar computer-generated power dispatch table, released to the media on June 11 against the dates of June 8, 9 and 10.