Power grid failure: result of neglect, lessons not learned
Experts blame poor power transmission equipment, the lack of a smart grid and the ill-equipped National Load Dispatch Center as responsible for Tuesday’s national grid outage that caused blackouts in half the country.
The risk of such failures will persist if the issues are not addressed, they added.
According to data from the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB), 71 incidents of power outages were reported due to problems in transmission lines from the fiscal year 2016-17 to 2020-21.
Officials said Tuesday’s outage occurred when a Ghorashal substation tripped.
This happened when the demand for electricity suddenly dropped causing a power surge. This caused one power plant after another to go off.
“This wouldn’t have happened if there was a smart grid,” said prominent energy expert Professor M Tamim.
In a smart grid, engineers would immediately notice the drop in demand and adjust power generation accordingly, he said.
The government has not made enough investment to use digital technology in the national grid, he said.
A lot of money has been spent over the past three years to put in new power lines. But the existing lines should have been modernized.
According to PGCB data, from fiscal year 2017-18 to 2021-22, 400 kV lines grew by 114%, 230 kV lines grew by 20% and 132 kV lines grew by 17% .
In June 2022, the PGCB had 1,494 km of 400 kV line, 4,018 km of 230 kV line and 8,186 km of 132 kV line.
But the capacity of substations that transform voltages has not increased accordingly, a PGCB official said on condition of anonymity.
The National Load Dispatch Center (NLDC) regulates the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity.
But the NLDC’s work is mostly done through phone calls from power stations and distributors, energy expert Prof M Shamsul Alam told the Daily Star.
“This creates the risk of failure. If there was an automated system, NLDC technicians could have seen the voltage and frequency in real time.”
PGCB chief executive Golam Kibria could not be reached for comment.
In 2017, the PGCB began a project to integrate generator sets with the NLDC’s SCADA-EMS system, which is expected to be completed by 2024, an official said.
THE MINISTRY HAS NOT YET FORMED THE EXPERTISE COMMITTEE
The Energy Ministry has yet to form the investigative commissions that State Minister Nasrul Hamid said would be formed to find out the exact cause of Tuesday’s grid outage.
Meanwhile, a committee formed by the PGCB with its executive director Yeakub Elahi Chowdhury as its leader has opened an investigation.
The six-member committee yesterday visited the control room and examined equipment at the Ghorashal power station in Narsingdi, then proceeded to the Ashuganj power station in Brahmanbaria, our correspondent in Narsingdi reports.
Yeakub Elahi Chowdhury told reporters in Narsingdi that the exact cause of the outage will be found once the control rooms of all affected power stations have been examined.
He added that no major problems had been identified in Ghorashal.
Mohammad Hossain, the managing director of Power Cell under the energy division, told the Daily Star that during the primary investigation, it appeared the source of the problem was at one of the Ghorashal substations.
Gonotantro Mancha, an alliance of different political parties, said in a statement yesterday that the network outage was the result of inefficient government management and a lack of will to reform the system.