February 2, 2023

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Pakistan suffers major power outage after Reuters grid outage

©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Electricity transmission towers are pictured in Karachi, Pakistan July 26, 2022. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

By Asif Shahzad and Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Tens of millions of people in Pakistan were left without power on Monday, the Energy Ministry said, reporting a second “major collapse” of the national power grid in the past three months.

Factories, hospitals and schools across the country were without power for hours after a voltage surge occurred in the power grid between the cities of Jamshoro and Dadu in southern Sindh province, Energy Minister Khurrum Dastagir said.

“There was a voltage fluctuation and the systems were shut down one by one. This is not a big crisis,” Dastagir told news channel Geo TV.

Outages were reported in the southern port city of Karachi, the capital Islamabad, the eastern city of Lahore and Peshawar in the north.

The sorry state of Pakistan’s energy sector is emblematic of an economy teetering from one International Monetary Fund bailout to another, with frequent power outages due to a lack of money to upgrade aging infrastructure.

When the power grid collapsed in October, it took several hours for power to be restored.

In Peshawar, a city of more than 2.3 million people, some residents said they couldn’t get drinking water because the pumps were powered by electricity.

Mohammad Asim, a spokesman for the city’s Lady Reading Hospital, the largest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said back-up generators were being used to provide uninterrupted power to the emergency room, intensive care units and laboratories.

The Department of Energy issued a statement saying it was working to revitalize the system and the minister said power had been restored in some parts of the country.

Pakistan has enough installed electricity capacity to meet demand, especially in winter when there is mostly a surplus.

But the country lacks the resources to run its oil and gas-fired assets, and the sector is so indebted that it can’t afford to invest in infrastructure and power lines.

“The generators are too far from the load centers and the transmission lines are too long and inadequate,” a senior power official, who declined to be quoted because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told Reuters.