Blackout in Pakistan as energy-saving measures backfire

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan was hit by a major power outage on Monday as the cash-strapped government’s energy-saving measure of shutting off power during low-use hours overnight backfired against him. It was the second power outage in four months as the country reeled from soaring energy prices.
Minister of Energy Khurram Dastgir said engineers were working to restore power across the country, including in Islamabad, and tried to reassure the nation that power should be restored by midnight.
“As an economic measure, we are temporarily shutting down our electricity production systems”, Dastagir said. Technicians were unable to start the system all at once after daybreak.
When engineers tried to turn the systems back on at 7:30 a.m., a “voltage fluctuation” was observed, which “forced the engineers to shut down power grid stations one by one,” the minister said.
The outage was reminiscent of a massive blackout in January 2021, attributed at the time to a technical failure in Pakistan’s power generation and distribution system. Another blackout hit the country in October last year and it took more than 12 hours to restore power.
Monday’s nationwide blackout has left many people without clean water as pumps run on electricity. Schools, hospitals, factories and shops were without electricity due to the harsh winter.
Pakistan often suffers from power outages, which are blamed on poor management and lack of investment in infrastructure.
Pakistanis are used to dealing with fluctuating power supply and load shedding, when power to certain areas is temporarily cut off to prevent the entire system from failing. Many businesses, industries and homes use diesel generators as a temporary solution to the power problem.
Earlier this month, the government ordered all shopping malls and markets to close at 8:30 p.m. and restaurants at 10 p.m. as part of a new energy-saving policy. But the plan fell through due to widespread opposition.
Pakistan derives at least 60% of its electricity from fossil fuels, while nearly 27% of electricity is generated by hydropower. The contribution of nuclear and solar energy to the national grid is around 10%.
Internet access advocacy group NetBlocks.org said network data shows a significant drop in Internet access in Pakistan, attributed to the power outage.
Politicians and journalists have swept the government on social media for its power and economic policies. Former Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari of Pakistan led by Imran Khan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) said a “cabal of incompetent crooks” was bringing the country down. Journalist Shahbaz Rana tweeted that the power outage was a “symbol of collapse in governance and economic collapse”.
Pakistan is grappling with one of the country’s worst economic crises in recent years amid dwindling foreign reserves. Talks are underway with the IMF to ease some conditions of Pakistan’s $6 billion bailout, which the government says will trigger further increases in inflation. The IMF released the last crucial tranche of $1.1 billion to Islamabad in August.
Since then, talks between the two sides have wavered due to Pakistan’s reluctance to impose new fiscal measures.
(with Associated Press entries)

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