Power back in Pakistan after the worst outage in months

Power back in Pakistan after the worst outage in months
Power back in Pakistan after the worst outage in months
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Pakistani Energy Minister: We have not yet found the cause of the power outage (Anatolia)

Pakistani Energy Minister Khurrum Dastagir on Tuesday attributed the country’s worst power outage in months to a lack of investment in the grid, stressing that the aid-dependent country had “learned lessons” from the outage that affected millions.

Like much of the national infrastructure, the electricity grid is in dire need of an upgrade amid tight financing in a country transitioning from one bailout package to another from the International Monetary Fund. The outage, which began on Monday morning, was the second large-scale outage since last October.

“We learned lessons from what happened yesterday, which is that we need to invest in the distribution network,” the Pakistani minister told reporters, upon announcing the full restoration of electricity for the country’s 220 million people.

He added, according to Reuters, that “no investment was directed to improve the performance of these networks from the previous government.”

The Pakistani Energy Minister stressed that the reason for the outage had not been reached yet, but the ministry was conducting a review of the safety of the entire network. “The government plans to add more electricity distribution lines during the next 36 months,” he added.

Yesterday, companies, hospitals, military and government facilities relied on backup generators. Electricity was also cut off in Karachi, the country’s largest city and economic hub, as well as other major cities such as Quetta, Peshawar and Lahore.

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Imran Rana, spokesman for the main power company in Karachi, said Monday that the government’s priority is to restore power to strategic facilities, including hospitals, airports and other places.

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Pakistan gets at least 60% of its electricity from fossil fuels, while approximately 27% of its electricity is generated by hydropower, while the contribution of nuclear and solar energy to the national electricity grid is about 10%.

Pakistan is suffering from one of the worst economic crises in the country over the past years, amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves. This forced the government, in early January, to request the closure of shopping centers by 8:30 pm to save energy.

The International Monetary Fund has provided five bailout packages to Pakistan over the past two decades, and a bailout tranche is currently stalling amid disagreements with the government over a review of a program that was supposed to be completed in November.

Pakistan has enough installed electric capacity to meet demand, but the sector is so heavily indebted that it cannot afford to invest in infrastructure and power lines.

(Reuters, The New Arab)

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