Inquiry Committee identifies factors responsible for Jan 23 power breakdown

ISLAMABAD-The Inquiry Committee constituted by the Prime Minister has held NTDC, NEPRA, power management, shift in-charge, system operation, transmission constraints, NEPRA, ill planning and lack of coordination responsible for the power breakdown of January 23, 2023.
The Inquiry Committee constituted by the Prime Minister, under the convenorship of Minister of State for Petroleum Dr Musadik Malik, has submitted report on major power breakdown in the country on January 23, 2023 to federal cabinet and declared poor coordination, absence of unity of command among NTDC, NEPRA and other concerned institutes, shortage of experts, and poor technology etc as main causes behind the countrywide power breakdown. 
The Inquiry Committee recommended that a formal departmental inquiry should be carried out to identify the mismanagement of the power control management team, the shift in-charge and his team, said the documents available with The Nation. According the finding of the report, the blackout that occurred on 23rd January was due to the system operation including supplying additional power from the south without considering the constrained transmission pathway and without switching on the powered off 500 KV lines. The report said that the shift operator aggravated the situation by reducing power generation at Ghazi Barotha to create balance but that worked the other way and resulted in the loss of balance. 
The report maintained that this was the mistake which was done at the system operator’s end and could have been avoided through pre-event planning. However, if we look at all the factors leading to the incident, we need to consider delays in strengthening the AC system that is a requirement for the HVDC system to operate in a stable manner. Furthermore, the regulator, i.e., NEPRA and the system operator need to work together to create protocols to handle situations like these. That coordination is missing for which the government needs to issue policy instructions to NEPRA. As far as the system restoration is concerned, WAPDA needs to immediately improve the speed governing mechanism at Tarbela. 
The committee has recommended that the Grid Code clearly states all operating principles that are mandatory for system security and operations. It is mandatory for the SO to conduct studies and prepare operation plan prior to bringing scheduled generation on-line on daily basis. The SO shall start preparing daily operating plan on the operating principles of the Grid Code. 
Economic merit order operation must be followed but all other principles invoked in the Grid Code also need to be given due consideration, especially when system security is at stake, the committee recommended and added that before penalizing the SO, the regulator has to keep in consideration all principles given in the Grid Code.  It has been further recommended that WAPDA, in coordination with NTDC, must investigate black start capabilities at Tarbela, Mangla and Warsak power plants, as these plants repeatedly failed to operate in island modes and caused significant restoration delays. 
Performance of governor control systems at these plants must be verified for islanded and synchronized operating modes. Appropriate corrective measures must be taken urgently, where necessary, the committee recommended. 
The Grid Code mandates the SO for provision of pre-operational plans regarding black start facilities and pre-tested system restoration plan under blackout conditions. After the recent experience, it is necessary that the SO, WAPDA and IPPs establish a proper restoration plan and pre-test all the systems under blackout conditions, every year. 
WAPDA, NTDC and IRSA must devise SOPs for low water season (December and January) to resolve water indent issues during the acute emergency situations, such as partial or total system blackouts. The system should be completely integrated, smart, real time and driven by artificial Intelligence (AI). 
To ensure this, a SCADA based on the most recent technology needs to be brought in place without any delay. Furthermore, technically advanced communication and protection systems need to be seamlessly integrated by NTDC.  The stability of the recently activated HVDC system especially at Lahore HVDC Converter Station needs to be ensured to avoid the frequent commutation failures. 
The activation of Guddu 747MW project and the optimal use of the existing generators in the central and northern regions need to be considered for system stability, the committee recommended.  Regarding capacity building and training of SO, the report proposed that SO must develop an in-house capability and skill-set for exhaustive operational planning to support dispatchers. 
New talent well-versed with intelligent technologies needs to be inducted in the system and the existing personnel need to be trained adequately.
It is further recommended that in order to ensure proper preparedness for system blackouts and subsequent restoration, the government should constitute an implementation committee under the convenorship of the Minister for Energy (Power Division), which shall include the respective heads of NTDC, NPCC, WAPDA, NEPRA, CPPA-G, the Secretary Ministry of Energy (Power Division) and the Secretary Ministry of Water Resources. The said committee may ensure proper coordinated planning and execution of the same. A study on the governance of power system operations needs to be urgently carried out in order to take care of fragmentation, poor inter and intra departmental coordination and lack of unity of command.

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