Lights out in Pakistan because energy-saving action is counterproductive

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ISLAMABAD (UKTN) — Much of Pakistan was without power for several hours Monday morning as a government energy-saving measure backfired. The outage caused panic and raised questions about how the tight government was handling the crisis.

Electricity was turned off nationwide at night during low-use hours to conserve fuel across the country, preventing technicians from starting the system all at once after daybreak, officials said.

The outage was reminiscent of a massive power outage in January 2021, attributed at the time to a technical glitch in the country’s power generation and distribution system.

Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir told local media on Monday that engineers were working to restore power across the country, including in the capital Islamabad, and tried to reassure the country that power would be fully restored within the next 12 hours .

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According to the minister, electricity consumption in winter usually drops from one day to the next. “As an economic measure, we have temporarily shut down our power generation systems,” he said Sunday night.

When engineers tried to turn the systems back on, a “fluctuation in voltage” was observed, which “forced engineers to shut down the power grid one by one,” Dastgir said.

He insisted that this was not a major crisis and that electricity was being restored in phases. Backup generators were turned on in many places and at key companies and institutions, including hospitals, military and government facilities.

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Karachi, the country’s largest city and economic center, was also without power on Monday, as were other major cities such as Quetta, Peshawar and Lahore.

Imran Rana, a spokesman for Karachi’s power supply company, said the government’s priority was to “restore power to strategic facilities, including hospitals”, airports and other places.

Pakistan derives at least 60% of its electricity from fossil fuels, while nearly 27% of its electricity is generated by hydropower. The contribution of nuclear and solar energy to the country’s electricity grid is about 10%.

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Pakistan is grappling with one of the country’s worst economic crises in recent years amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves. This forced the government earlier this month to close shopping malls and markets at 8.30pm for energy conservation purposes.

Talks are underway with the International Monetary Fund to ease some conditions for Pakistan’s $6 billion bailout, which the government says will lead to further inflation increases. The IMF released the last crucial $1.1 billion tranche to Islamabad in August.

Since then, talks between the two sides have swung back and forth over Pakistan’s reluctance to impose new tax measures.

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