Despite many countries announcing energy crisis after the Russia-Ukraine war, Pakistan is one of the few countries that has experienced major power outages, with two nationwide blackouts within three months. The country is currently under a foreign exchange crisis as it is unable to purchase natural gas that is incessantly rising in prices, which led to an insufficient volume of gas-fired power generation, which is why power cuts are rather normal. However, the latest power outage in February 2023 is attributable to excessive electricity.
Pakistan’s alleviation of its currency crisis through the International Monetary Fund can be proven to be untimely at times, since slight delays of relief funds would prevent imports of energy. Pakistan currently has less than a month of foreign currency reserves, yet 1/3 of the country’s power is generated by imported natural gas, and the significant surge of natural gas prices after the Russia-Ukraine war has also further exacerbated Pakistan’s energy issue, where the elevated use of air-conditioners during 2022 summertime had driven the country into an energy void.
The government announced that shopping centers, restaurants, and markets must be shut down after 8:30 at night in order to conserve energy, as well as an acceleration on fuel imports, and prioritizing energy to schools, hospitals, and factories. With that being said, Pakistan was still under regional power restrictions that could last several hours for the past few months, with rural areas experiencing an even longer outage period. Having entered wintertime, Pakistan has slightly mitigated from the constrained availability of power, but that is when a major power outage had occurred, where 2.2 million individuals were out of power for an entire day, with suspension in telecommunication and internet services at the same time that also affected industrial and commercial activities. It turns out that the cause of this major power outage was due to an excessive volume of electricity.
Power supply and demand must be maintained at an equilibrium at all time, since both power shortage and excessiveness would lead to outages, and the power outage of Pakistan this time was caused by the latter. Pakistan’s power grid has an AC frequency of 50Hz, which lowers whenever the power supplier is insufficient, and rises on the contrary. The grid frequency is often maintained at 0.05Hz. The frequency first ascended to 50.30Hz on the day of the power outage, before further climbed to 50.75Hz, which led to a severe fluctuation and tripping of voltage for the southern transmission and distribution lines, and severed the power grids of the south and the north.
Most of Pakistan’s power plants are located at the southern part of the country. Once the power grids of the north and the south had severed, the power demand from the northern grid had surpassed way above the supply, and various mechanisms in maintaining grid frequency were unable to resolve the difference, thus leading to the nationwide power outage.
Pakistan’s latest power outage was resulted by a rapid increase of frequency under an excessive provision of electricity, and once again reminds the world just how complex and fragile power systems can be.
(Cover photo source: Shutterstock)