Plan to link north and south power grids to avert future blackout

Muscat: Following the unprecedented power outage, which hit normal life in many governorates of the Sultanate, experts have come up with ways to prevent the recurrence of such failure in the future.

The one that finds almost unanimous favour and is being executed by the Public Services Regulatory Authority is the linking of the two networks in the north and south of the Sultanate by 2026.

His Excellency Dr. Mansour bin Talib Al Hinai, Chairman of the Public Services Regulatory Authority, said: “We expect to link the two systems of electricity in the north and south of the Sultanate of Oman by the year 2026. The first phase of the work will be completed by 2023, and studies are underway to implement the second phase.”

Linking the two power networks will help avoid power outages in future, Engineer Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Saeedi, CEO of Nafath Renewable Energy Company, said. “Besides preventing many problems, the plan will put into place backup stations in both the regions, which will be operated in the event of failure of the national grid.” This, however, not free from its negative aspects. “If both the power networks were linked, as is being proposed, the entire network will suffer disruption in the event of a snag in one of the networks, like it did in case of the Ibri state power line developing a snag and causing disruptions extending from north to south on Monday.”

It may be mentioned that Tuesday, a number of regions in the Sultanate witnessed power outage from 1pm till it was fully restored by 2:22am on Tuesday.

Engineer Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Saeedi said: “Losses incurred from Monday’s power cut should also be estimated.”

Al-Saeedi continued: “This outage is an exceptional event as the engineer in his service span of roughly 20-35 years rarely comes across an outage of such gigantic proportions. It is indeed an exceptional event in an exceptional circumstance. And, at the core of this lies the imbalance between electrical production and consumption, besides some technical reasons. Sometimes these reasons are internal, including the failure to manage information and data correctly, or maintenance operations or the like. Then there are external factors such as natural disasters such as cyclones, rains, flooding, etc.”

 “The Public Services Regulatory Authority stated that the cause of the power outage yesterday was a snag in the transmission lines in the Wilayat of Ibri in the Dhahirah Governorate which triggered several outages in almost 90% of the network in the Sultanate,” Al Saeedi said.

On whether the authorities could be in preparedness for power outages of such magnitude as the one that occurred on Monday, Eng. Al Saeedi said: “The electricity sector has qualified and trained cadres and although such outages are normally not expected, there are procedures that must be followed directly and quickly which can protect against such an outage.”

Al Saeedi continued: “We are waiting for an independent investigation by the Public Services Regulatory Authority to find out the real technical reasons behind this outage. There are initial reasons that were announced, but I think that a comprehensive report will be published by the authority later.”

Suggesting a way out of Monday’s mishap, Eng. Abdullah said that transmission lines in the Wilayat of Ibri could be disconnected once it was hit by the snag. Alternative lines could then be used to feed some areas so that the scope of the power outage remained limited, geographically. This would have kept the effects of the outage restricted to a wilayat or a governorate, or at most, over two governorates of the Sultanate.

“But the extension of this impact on a large number of governorates and the exit of about 3.8 gigawatts of electricity, which represents more than 60-70 percent, requires more research and investigation because what happened yesterday affects the confidence of the public, ports, airports, the health sector and all sectors on the electricity network.”

Engineer Al-Saeedi stressed that the event of the power outage that occurred yesterday will not go unnoticed and will be studied, researched and investigated so that it will not be repeated in future.

Eng. Abdullah added: “The unified Gulf interconnection system, which is a project at the level of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, is of great importance, very useful and positive in such circumstances.”

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