How to ensure safe operation of power grids?

by Cheng Xizhong

Unfortunately, Pakistan was plunged into darkness in the evening of January 9 as a massive power outage hit the country. Major cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Multan in Pakistan, a friendly neighbor of China, were severely hit by the blackout.

Confirming the blackout, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan tweeted, “a countrywide blackout has been caused by a sudden plunge in the frequency in the power transmission system.” According to Ayub, the power breakdown was caused after the frequency in the national power distribution system suddenly fell from 50 to zero at a grid in Guddu, Sindh Province.

Pakistan’s media commented that the accident exposed a prominent problem in Pakistan’s electrical infrastructure construction, namely, only paying attention to the construction of new power stations, but ignoring the construction of supporting facilities for power transmission and distribution.

Therefore, power sector experts suggested that Ministry of Energy, National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), National Transmission & Despatch Company (NTDC) and other functional departments should thoroughly investigate and find out the real cause for the power failure and then seriously learn a lesson from this accident, strengthen the upgrading of power transmission and distribution informatization and electricity substation construction, improve the stability and reliability of power supply system, reduce transmission loss, and crack down on electricity theft, so as to better protect the national economic development and people’s livelihood.

What is a large-scale blackout? The definition given by authoritative experts is that large-scale blackout refers to the blackout of regional power grid, provincial power grid or urban power grid due to natural disasters, power safety accidents or external damage, which has an impact and threat on national security, social stability and the life of the people.

China has built a super-large AC/DC hybrid power grid with the highest voltage level, the largest power grid scale, the strongest configuration capability and the longest safe operation time in the world, which provides a strong guarantee for energy production and the implementation of the new energy security strategy.

How can we ensure the safe and stable operation of power grid? Reasonable power supply structure and power grid structure are the basis of power grid safety and stability, and also the basis of large power grid to deal with extreme situations.

In the past 20 years, China is the only country in the world that has not witnessed any large-scale blackouts. The strong grid infrastructure and unified power dispatching mechanism have provided the most fundamental institutional guarantee for the safe and stable operation of China’s extra-large power network.

In the past few years, China and Pakistan have been committed to building the economic corridor and solving the problem of power supply is one of the top priorities. My personal opinion is that while building new power stations, China and Pakistan should make more joint efforts in upgrading the power transmission and transformation network, so as to ensure the absolute safety of power supply.

Cheng Xizhong, visiting professor at Southwest University of Political Science and Law, senior fellow of the Charhar Institute, former Defense Attache in South Asian countries

Source: China Economic Net