Two days after power outage, questions remain

(Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Two days after a nationwide power outage, many are still left with unanswered questions. For the experts who talked to Jordan News, the government’s press conference did little to explain how Jordan’s entire electrical grid was affected.اضافة اعلان

During a press conference on Friday night, the government explained the power outage as a “sudden electrical malfunction that struck the grid between Jordan and Egypt”.

Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Hala Zawati explained that any electrical system around the world could experience such an outage, but “thanks to the efforts of our national cadres, the electricity was restored” quickly.

Head of the electrical engineering section at the Jordan Engineers Association, Malik Amayreh, told Jordan News that one kilowatt hour costs the Jordanian economy around JD2. Therefore, depending on the average rate of electricity consumption on a normal Friday afternoon, the five-hour power outage cost over JD15 million, without accounting for the losses of the medical and trading sectors.

He disputed the government’s explanation for the outage. “The government’s press conference blaming Egypt was a hasty decision, and will most certainly ruin our relationship with Egypt,” Amayreh said. “Egyptian electricity saves us hundreds of millions of dinars annually, simply because the cost of importing Egyptian electricity is cheaper than producing it here in Jordan.”

The engineer attributed the cost difference to the “Jordanian mismanagement of the electricity and renewable energy file,” as Jordan still has “traditional” electricity generating companies, while Egypt “is mostly dependent” on electricity produced by huge wind turbine farms (a renewable source).

There are usually 15–30 minutes “to fix any issues before the generators automatically shut down, which didn’t happen,” he commented. According to him, the problem is “a pure technical and administrative failure by the National Electric Power Company, who could’ve corrected the situation in 15 minutes.”

Amayreh pointed out that a malfunctions analysis committee has been formed by the government, and another internal committee has been formed at NEPCO to investigate the reason of the power outage, but that they are not being transparent.

Professor Samer Asa’ad at the Middle East University said that no one could actually give a specific reason for the blackout and at this point, it’s all just guesses.

“The malfunctions analysis committee are not sharing any results of their investigations,” he said. “They’re giving people the opportunity to spread rumors this way.”

“The Kingdom has 99.8 percent electricity coverage, with an almost nonexistent” possibility for power cuts, the professor said. “This is the first time in the modern history” that a power outage affected the entire country, he added. “We have around 11 power generating companies around the Kingdom, and it’s theoretically impossible that they stopped functioning at the same time!”

Awni Jayousi, another professor at the Middle East University, said that there are a wide variety of possible explanations for the blackout exist, but that he hoped NEPCO would share their findings soon.

Amer Shoubaki, a researcher specialized in oil and energy affairs, told Jordan News that the reason behind the power shortage was “an automatic shutdown in electrical power generators. Not a sudden electrical malfunction between Jordan and Egypt.”

“As measures of precociousness, electrical generators automatically shut off when a sudden increase of the volatility of an electrical current is censored. Egypt has nothing to do with this,” Shoubaki added.

Shoubaki explained that the Kingdom is connected to Egypt via two cables. The first cable, a 400 kilovolt (kV) cable, which is currently under construction. The other is a 220kV cable, and could be loaded up to 150 megawatts, the researcher said, adding that if it was loaded up to 200 megawatts, it could definitely cause a power shortage.

“I was really surprised that the government blamed Egypt for the shortage. Egypt supplied us with electricity the moment that the outage occurred to at least restore electricity in Aqaba, and soon to the rest of the Kingdom. They technically saved us!” he said.

Shoubaki also referred to the 5-hour power outage that happened in Manhattan, New York, in 2019. During the shortage, security cameras and alarm systems were not functioning, leading to several robberies and acts of vandalism.

“We need to give credit where credit is due. We’re lucky that the government responded quickly. The Ministry of Internal Affairs sent police officers to traffic lights to organize the traffic and the Ministry of Health preserved the vaccines in safe environments.” 

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