Smog related power outages

In a high level meeting, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was informed that all out efforts were being made to deal with Smog related outages and a ream of experts has been sent to China to study the Beijing’s model of electricity for smog ridden areas. The oil-based generation has been restored and Chinese technical help is being sought to stop the repeated tripping triggered by smog in the transmission and distribution network. The 500 KV and 220 KV transmission lines are the backbone of national grid which suffered outages 82 times in four days. The system stability issue arose from closure of furnace oil, diesel and gas using thermal power plants. The supply of gas remained low although the Prime Minister had disclosed in a recent energy conference that gas load-shedding is a thing of the past.

The Power Division of the energy ministry reveled that down the line 132 KV transmission lines also face the problem of repeated tripping.” There is no load-shedding but we are facing the challenge of repeated outages.” an official claimed. The oil-base power plants like HUBCO, KAPCO, Nishat Chunia, Liberty, Engro and some others were closed because of smog factor and South Punjab, Upper Sindh and some other parts of the country could not get smooth power supply. The non-availability of gas from LNG Terminal and low hydropower generation also contributed to a short fall of 4000 plus mega watts. This shut down of coal and nuclear power plants was inevitable because of the international obligation to stop the spillover effects of oxides of sulfur, nitrogen and carbon along with other gases to other neighboring countries.

The governments that came to power in the decade of 1970s and onward did not realize the inevitability of a comprehensive energy policy based on optimal mix. Big, medium and small hydropower projects were not undertaken at the behest vested interest. The leadership of PPP, KPK and Sindhi Nationalist parties ran a persistent campaign against the construction of Kalabagh dam. Their contention against this multidimensional project of national interest was merely a political gimmick as it was not supported by a relevant technical data. The dry spell is caused by the climate change which is a global problem. The smog will appear every year particularly in winter. It will further exacerbate when all 13 coal fired thermal power plants of CPEC project become operational. These plants will use the obsolete Chinese technology and imported coal. The burning of crops waste, burning of tires and inferior quality of coal in bricks kilns also contribute to thickening of smog level but the exhaust gases of these 13 thermal power plants will accelerate the downfall of our climate and putting a grave risk the life of common man. Burning of coal in cement factories also emit carbon and other gases. Construction of environment friendly hydropower stations and gas based thermal power plants provide a permanent solution. Hopefully the federal government will give first priority to the implementation of Baha, Dasu , Monda and Kurram Tangi hydropower projects besides giving prompt approval of CDWP for the construction of a number of hydropower station of 100 plus Mega Watts capacity in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Above all serious efforts should be made to reach consensus on Kalabagh Dam. If purely for the purpose of power play the so called Charter of Democracy can be signed then for the larger national interest, a meaningful dialogue can also be held on the construction of Kalabagh Dam. The ruling parties must set aside their personal interest, parochial ethnic tendencies and put their heads together to formulate an environment friendly energy policy instead to running to China who is about to make our air poisonous by dumping their worn out thermal power plants on the soil of Pakistan. The representative of government should ask this simple question. Is it worth risking the lives of 220 million people just to accommodate the interest of China and Pakistani elites, who are also the part of government? One action like going to China to study Beijing model of efficient transmission of power in high density smog boggles the minds of the expert. Why not visit Germany and carbon negative country like Bhutan, as they have already reduced the levels of these dangerous gases by making use of efficient government policies. Instead of controlling the effects of smog on power transmission, why not control the levels of smog as it is not an impossible feat because it has been done in the past.