I started to grow alarmed at work when we were using generators for longer hours. The head of the Electrical and Electronics department explained that they had to switch to the generator because the voltage was low. And when we have less than optimum voltage, we can’t risk running our equipment on electricity from the national grid.
Through a mutual friend, I requested a Superintending Engineer of LESCO to help us out. What he shared was surprising.
“The low voltage situation is to prevent load shedding,” he said. “Higher load is caused by air conditioners, commercial freezers, water turbines and motors. At lower voltages a lot of equipment won’t work. As a result, a significant portion of demand is killed.”
When I reach home, I found a similar low voltage situation. Something kept bothering me about it, so, I picked up my son’s O’ Level Physics textbook, which explained it in simple terms from the BBC:
“The National Grid carries electricity around Britain. The higher the current in a cable, the greater the energy transferred to the surroundings by heating. This means that high currents waste more energy than low currents. To reduce energy transfers to the environment, the National Grid uses step-up transformers to increase the voltage from power stations to thousands of volts, which lowers the current in the transmission cables. Step-down transformers are then used to decrease the voltage from the transmission cables, so it is safer to distribute to homes and factories.”
Then I made a few calls to a LESCO sub-division to lodge a complaint. They said that this is being managed by the Grid Station and this is the situation all over Lahore. The message from the Grid Station was something like, “be happy that your fan and lights are working, otherwise we will have to resort to load-shedding on alternate hours during peak hours.”
This is alarming. Not only is there a risk of damage to personal electrical appliances and equipment, but it could also cause severe consequences for the Transmission System apart from higher line losses.
What could I do other than tweet about it?
To borrow a phrase from guru @2paisay LESCO ki chalakiyan. As soon as electricity demand increases, LESCO decreases voltage to 185-190. Had to check my son's physics notes. This results in higher line losses. pic.twitter.com/C22kUEdmjc— Motasim Bajwa (@motasim) July 8, 2021
Professionals with a background in electricity transmission and distribution systems find this unbelievable. Some call it a conspiracy theory. And then there were some who were of the opinion that people with finance or economics background shouldn’t be talking about such technical issues. “Not your area,” they say. Sure, it is not my area at all. But I’m blessed to have an ex-Schneider person who heads our Electrical and Electronics department.
Soon, people will start sharing similar stories from different areas of Lahore.
The writer is a Chartered Accountant working in general management for the last two decades