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Pakistan on the Brink: What the Collapse of the Nuclear-Armed Regional Power Could Mean for the World

Pakistan on the Brink: What the Collapse of the Nuclear-Armed Regional Power Could Mean for the World

A series of disasters — including catastrophic flooding, political paralysis, exploding inflation, and a resurgent terror threat — risk sending the global player into full-blown crisis.

Vendors sell fruit under lights lit by batteries in Lahore, Pakistan, on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Millions of people across Pakistans major cities were plunged into a blackout prompted by a power grid failure, dealing another blow to the nation already reeling from surging energy costs. Photographer: Betsy Joles/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Vendors sell fruit under battery-powered lights during a blackout due to a power grid failure in Lahore, Pakistan, on Jan. 23, 2023. Photo: Betsy Joles/Bloomberg via Getty Images

THE LAST YEAR has brought Pakistan to the brink. A series of rolling disasters — including catastrophic flooding, political paralysis, exploding inflation, and a resurgent terror threat — now risk sending a key, if troubled, global player into full-blown crisis. If the worst comes to pass, as some experts warn, the catastrophe unfolding in Pakistan will have consequences far beyond its borders.

“This is a country of 220 million people, with nuclear weapons and serious internal conflicts and divisions,” said Uzair Younus, the director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center. “The world didn’t like the outflows of refugees and weapons that came from countries like Syria and Libya. In comparison, Pakistan is magnitudes larger and more consequential.”

“If the economy remains in a moribund state, and there are shortages of goods and energy leading to a political crisis on the streets of major cities, that would also allow the Pakistani Taliban and other terrorist groups to begin hitting at the government more directly,” said Younus, who is also vice president of the Asia Group, a strategic advisory firm. “We could see a significant weakening of the state and its capacity to impose order.”

It is hard to overstate the difficulty of Pakistan’s current situation. An unfortunate string of recent events combined with chronic mismanagement has created a potentially mortal threat to Pakistan’s political system.

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More Than 400,000 Texans Without Power Amid Dangerous Winter Storm

More Than 400,000 Texans Without Power Amid Dangerous Winter Storm

The freezing conditions will end for Texas soon, but they’re set to move into the Northeast this weekend.

A woman waits for paramedics in the back of a Lyft Ride vehicle on February 01, 2023 in Austin, Texas. A winter storm is sweeping across portions of Texas, causing massive power outages and disruptions of highways and roads.
A woman waits for paramedics in the back of a Lyft Ride vehicle on February 01, 2023 in Austin, Texas. A winter storm is sweeping across portions of Texas, causing massive power outages and disruptions of highways and roads.
Photo: Brandon Bell (Getty Images)

Central Texas has been frozen since earlier this week after an Arctic front rolled into the Southern U.S. Parts of central, west, and north Texas and nearby states Arkansas and Tennessee were under ice storm warnings, per the National Weather Service Prediction Center. The freezing temperatures and sleet should end by this weekend.

“The prolonged and damaging ice storm that has impacted a large region from Texas to Tennessee is forecast to finally come to an end today as a final surge of moisture slides eastward,” the NWS said. “Highs will return into the 40s and 50s by Friday, likely eliminating any icy concerns.”

“FINALLY beginning to see some clearing on radar. Road conditions will slowly improve as we climb into the mid 30s today. Slick spots will persist overnight but widespread improvement is expected tomorrow. Allow for extra travel time today. It’s still slushy!” the Fort Worth National Weather Service account tweeted Thursday.

More than 405,000 customers out of 13 million are without power, according to Poweroutage.us.

Several days of icy conditions had canceled over 2,000 flights across several states as of Wednesday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported. Driving was dangerous throughout Texas this week. The storm has been blamed for 10 traffic accident deaths across three states, the Associated Press reported. The sleet and freezing rain also created ice layers on trees, causing the branches to snap off.

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Eastern US Power Grid Declares Emergency, Power Outages Top One Million, Flight Disruptions Persist Amid Storm Chaos

Eastern US Power Grid Declares Emergency, Power Outages Top One Million, Flight Disruptions Persist Amid Storm Chaos

The powerful winter storm that battered a large swath of the eastern half of the US has left behind an Arctic chill Saturday morning. A regional power grid with 65 million customers in 13 states and the District of Columbia has declared a rare emergency, over a million people have no power, air travel remains disrupted, and reports of highway accidents are some of the most trending topics this morning.

Let’s begin with PJM Interconnection, a regional power grid that stretches from Illinois to New Jersey, which declared a Stage 2 emergency late Friday and asked customers to conserve electricity due to the rising risk of grid instability.

“PJM is asking consumers to reduce their use of electricity, if health permits, between the hours of 4 a.m. on December 24, 2022, and 10 a.m. on December 25, 2022,” PJM wrote in a press release.

PJM’s request for customers to reduce power comes as the grid manager is trying to prevent a Stage 3 emergency, which would result in rolling blackouts across the 13 states and the District of Columbia.

“Demand soared more than 9 gigawatts above forecasts Friday evening — much faster and higher than anticipated. That’s the equivalent of about 9 million homes just popping up on the grid on a typical day,” Bloomberg said.

PJM spokeswoman Susan Buehler told Bloomberg that Stage 2 emergency would “certainly be enough” to avert blackouts across the regional grid because the Arctic blast is only temporary.

In the Carolinas, Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress, like several other utilities, have asked customers to conserve power due to energy shortfalls.

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German Disaster Official Recommends Stockpiling ‘Several Crates’ Of Water, Canned Food

German Disaster Official Recommends Stockpiling ‘Several Crates’ Of Water, Canned Food

The head of Germany’s Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief (BBK), Ralph Tiesler, has warned citizens to prepare for short-term power outages, particularly in January and February, and to stock up on rations in advance.

We have to assume that there will be blackouts this winter. By that, I mean a regional and temporary interruption in the power supply. The cause will not only be energy shortages, but also the targeted, temporary shutdown of the networks by the operators, with the aim of protecting the networks and not endangering the overall supply,” Tiesler told the news outlet Welt am Sonntag, adding that local authorities in several German municipalities are preparing for the possibility of blackouts, and have developed ‘precise plans’ that include procuring emergency generators to support the system.

That said, some municipalities are not prepared – and despite German gas storage facilities being near capacity, experts don’t think the stockpile will be enough to last the country through the winter due to a lack of new supply from Russia.

“We expect short-term blackouts rather than long-lasting, large-scale blackouts. But good preparation is important for that, too,” Tiesler added.

Ralph Tiesler

What to do? Stock up…

“Primarily water, several crates, and canned food. That would be enough for ten days. That’s what my agency recommends… Our message is: prepare in the first place. Be prepared for possible crises, don’t assume that everything will be readily available all the time,” Tiesler stated, adding that residents should also purchase battery-powered radios and candles.

Germany’s energy woes stem from a drop in gas supplies from Russia, after an ill-advised scheme to shut off their nuclear power plants. The flow of gas was cut off much earlier than expected over Ukraine-related sanctions, as well as explosions in September which rendered the Nord Stream 1 pipeline inoperable.

Power Blackout Risks Loom For Quarter Of All Americans

Power Blackout Risks Loom For Quarter Of All Americans

The US heating season has officially begun, and new warnings show that a quarter of all Americans could experience energy emergencies this winter if temperatures fall below average due to tight fossil fuel supplies.

Power grids from the Great Lakes to Louisiana, New England, Carolinas, and all of Texas are the most at risk for power supply shortfalls during high-demand periods, according to Bloomberg, citing a new report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a regulatory body that manages grid stability.

NERC said a cold snap for an extended period could spark grid strain due to soaring power demand from households and businesses. This would cause supplies of natural gas, coal, and backup diesel generators to draw down more quickly and possibly experience shortages.

“The trend is we see more areas at risk, we see more retirements of critical generation, fuel challenges and we are doing everything we can. 

“These challenges don’t kind of appear out of nowhere,” John Moura, NERC’s director of reliability assessment, said during a media briefing.

For instance, the demand for diesel is rising, but East Coast supplies are at record lows for this time of year. Shortage of fuel used to power the economy, from heating to trucking, has about 25 days left of supplies in storage. Any supply disruption could leave power generation plants with supply gaps this winter.

Jim Matheson, chief executive officer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, told Bloomberg that electricity demand is set to outpace “available supply during peak winter conditions, consumers face an inconceivable but real threat of rolling blackouts.”

Matheson warned: “It doesn’t have to be this way. But absent a shift in state and federal energy policy, this is a reality we will face for years to come.”

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Germany Preparing For Emergency Cash Deliveries, Bank Runs And “Aggressive Discontent” Ahead Of Winter Power Cuts

Germany Preparing For Emergency Cash Deliveries, Bank Runs And “Aggressive Discontent” Ahead Of Winter Power Cuts

While Europe has been keeping a generally optimistic facade ahead of the coming cold winter, signaling that it has more than enough gas in storage to make up for loss of Russian supply even in a “coldest-case” scenario, behind the scenes Europe’s largest economy is quietly preparing for a worst case scenario which include angry mobs and bankruns should blackouts prevent the population from accessing cash.

As Reuters reports citing four sources, German authorities have stepped up preparations for emergency cash deliveries in case of a blackout (or rather blackouts) to keep the economy running, as the nation braces for possible power cuts arising from the war in Ukraine. The plans include the Bundesbank hoarding extra billions to cope with a surge in demand, as well as “possible limits on withdrawals”, one of the people said. And if you think crypto investors are angry when they can’t access their digital tokens in a bankrupt exchange, just wait until you see a German whose cash has just been locked out.

Officials and banks are looking not only at origination (i.e., money-printing) but also at distribution, discussing for example priority fuel access for cash transporters, according to other sources commenting on preparations that accelerated in recent weeks after Russia throttled gas supplies.

The planning discussions involve the central bank, its financial market regulator BaFin, and multiple financial industry associations, said the Reuters sources most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity about plans that are private and in flux.

Although German authorities have publicly played down the likelihood of a blackout and bank runs – for obvious reasons  – the discussions show both how seriously they take the threat and how they struggle to prepare for potential crippling power outages caused by soaring energy costs or even sabotage…

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Food Riots Continue In Sri Lanka As The Military Begins Shooting

The starving and hungry people of collapsing Sri Lanks have been rioting over the cost of food and lack of energy. As if things couldn’t get worse, the ruling class has taken to gunning down those who stand against being ruled.

People are starving and are without gas or electricity, and now they are rioting as a society completely collapses. To make matters worse, the military is gunning people down. This is a glimpse into the future here if the rulers of Western countries continue. Once they collapse it around us, we will be the ones starving while the government makes sure it can remain intact and functional. That means we’ll still get stolen from and be forced at the barrel of the fun to comply with whatever they say.

According to a report by StrangeSounds, troops fired in Visuvamadu, 365 kilometers (228 miles) north of Colombo, on Saturday night as their guard point was pelted with stones, army spokesman Nilantha Premaratne said. “A group of 20 to 30 people pelted stones and damaged an army truck,” Premaratne told the Associated FreePress.

Police said four civilians and three soldiers were wounded when the army opened fire for the first time to quell unrest linked to the worsening economic crisis.

As the pump ran out of petrol, motorists began to protest and the situation escalated into a clash with troops, police said. -Strange Sounds

Sri Lanka is suffering its worst economic crisis since “independence”, with the country unable to find dollars to import essentials, including food, fuel, and medicines. (Anyone who actually believes anyone other than the rulers are “independent” in Sri Lanka has a lot of cognitive dissonances to evaluate).

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Thousands of Homes in Sydney Plunged Into Darkness As Energy Shortage Plagues Australia

Thousands of Homes in Sydney Plunged Into Darkness As Energy Shortage Plagues Australia

Thousands of homes on Australia’s east coast were plunged into darkness on Monday as electricity suppliers struggled to meet demand as the country teeters on the edge of an energy shortage.

On Monday night, multiple areas in Sydney’s north and along the affluent Northern Beaches were sent into darkness, after the energy market operator warned of power disruption across the states of New South Wales and Queensland.

Affected suburbs include Beacon Hill, Frenchs Forest, Narraweena, Cromer and Dee Why in New South Wales (NSW), according to Ausgrid—Australia’s largest electricity distributor on the east coast. Power was available later in the day.

Households were encouraged to use less power as leading energy provider Powerlink Queensland warned of an “unusual combination” of unexpected generator outages plus cool winter temperatures and high demand for electricity.

“Gas supplies are sufficient however very high gas prices means [the Australian Energy Market Operator] has already triggered its market generation response mechanisms,” Powerlink said in a statement on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) on Tuesday confirmed that some energy generators have “revised their market availability” in NSW and Queensland due to a new $300/MWh price cap, a result of increased wholesale electricity prices.

In the gas markets, gas prices remained capped at $40/GJ after reaching cumulative high price thresholds in Victoria and Sydney.

“As a consequence of the administered price cap in Queensland, AEMO has seen generation bids reduce,” AEMO said in a media release on Monday. “The price cap … will only remain in place if the cumulative price threshold is still exceeded.”

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Summer Outages Are Coming. Is Your Facility Prepared?

On-site microgrids provide facilities with reliable energy during extreme weather that threatens utility blackouts and price increases.

Bloomberg News, the Wall Street Journal — almost every week we see news articles warning of more summer outages than ever before. The U.S. is experiencing more outages than other industrialized nations. Meanwhile, heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires are only becoming more common. The energy transition is here, and it’s going to be a bumpy ride for the next 10-20 years.

At the same time, the grid is shifting towards more intermittent renewables and shutting down existing power plants, leaving utilities with a thin reserve margin. This leaves large power users exposed to the risk of extended brownouts or outages.

On-site microgrids ensure facilities have reliable, affordable power during peak events, regardless of the state of the grid.

Extreme Weather Increases the Risk of Utility Blackouts

Early May should be too early for a heatwave, even in Texas. But already this year, grid operators expecting 105° temperatures across the state were forced to issue a grid outage warning and take action to stave off rolling blackouts. Nonetheless, some outages occurred as warned. Texas reached an almost record high in energy demand while generators and transmission operators scrambled to complete repairs and weatherization of a rapidly decaying grid.

The state avoided most blackouts during the grid usage spike, but not all. For instance, the utility shut off some Austin area customers due to the high demand, which exceeded 71 GW ahead of the summer peak season (75 GW is the record summer demand). At the same time, electricity prices rose sharply, reaching triple the average near Houston.

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Climate change, energy, and an unstable grid: The mainstream belatedly gets the connections

Climate change, energy, and an unstable grid: The mainstream belatedly gets the connections

Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer in the United States as the temperate breezes of spring give way to an enveloping heat that has become more and more intense each year due to climate change. This summer forecasters are expecting two big things: deadly heat and electricity outages. Mainstream news coverage is now explaining why these are inextricably intertwined, a relatively new development in such coverage. And, it turns out that the recent blistering record heatwave in India and Pakistan is but a foretaste of our future.

Those of us who have covered climate change in the last two decades believed that by the time such connections became obvious and noted by mainstream outlets, the world would be so far along in the process of global warming that stability-challenging events such as grid failures would become normal.

That’s because of the lag time between when we introduce greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and when we experience the warming caused by them is between 25 and 50 years. This is due to what’s called the thermal inertia of the oceans which means more or less that the oceans take time to warm (usually decades). Even if we were to take drastic action now that stopped all further emissions of greenhouse gases, the world would be in for several more decades of rising temperatures. But, of course, we as a global society are instead pursuing business as usual.

I can remember as a child living largely without air-conditioning. We would experience nights so cool at the cottage we rented along the shores of Lake Michigan that we would close all the shutters and cover ourselves with wool blankets.

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India Facing Widespread Blackouts This Summer

India Facing Widespread Blackouts This Summer

India faces a persistent shortage of electricity over the next four months as rapid demand growth from air conditioners overwhelms the available generation on the network.

India’s grid reported a record load of 200,570 megawatts on July 7, 2021, at the height of last summer, according to the National Load Despatch Centre of the Power System Operation Corporation (POSOCO).

But since the middle of March, the grid has routinely reported maximum loads above 195,000 MW, including a peak of 199,584 MW on April 8 – less than 0.5% below the record.

In the evening, when there is no solar generation available and supplies are even more stretched, peak loads have hit a new record in recent days.

Exceptionally high loads have arrived far earlier this year, well before the most intense period of summer heat, implying the grid is in trouble.

In a symptom of the struggle to meet demand, the grid’s frequency has faltered since mid-March, dropping persistently below target, with longer and more severe excursions below the safe operating range.

Chronic under-frequency is a sign the grid cannot meet the full demand from customers and makes planned load-shedding or unplanned blackouts much more likely.

India has a frequency target of 50.00 cycles per second (Hertz), with grid controllers tasked with keeping it steady between 49.90 Hz and 50.05 Hz to maintain the network in a safe and reliable condition. Since the middle of March, frequency has averaged just 49.95 Hz and has been below the lower operating threshold more than 23% of the time.

On April 7, the average frequency fell as low as 49.84 Hz and frequency was below the lower threshold for 63% of the day, according to POSOCO data.

Frequency has been below target so often for so long in recent weeks it has sometimes appeared the system is operating according to a much lower informal target.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Millions Without Power After Blackouts Hit Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan

A massive power outage was reported on Tuesday across several Eurasia countries that left millions in the dark.

Reuters reports Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan found themselves without power today. All three ex-Soviet republics have interconnected power grids connected to Russia.

The source of the disruption could be due to Kazakhstan’s North-South power line, which links its two neighbors to power stations in northern Kazakhstan and the Russian power grid. On Tuesday morning, Kazakhstan Electricity Grid Operating Company (KEGOC) said “emergency imbalances” resulted in disruptions.

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Flights Canceled, 800,000 Without Power As Fast-Moving Winter Storm Pounds Mid-Atlantic

Flights Canceled, 800,000 Without Power As Fast-Moving Winter Storm Pounds Mid-Atlantic

Update (1217ET): A fast-moving winter storm pounded the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, resulting in 800,00 customers without power.

According to PowerOutage.US, the highest concentration of power outages spanned across Virginia (378k customers without power) and North Carolina (163k customers without power).

AccuWeather reports parts of Tennessee and North Carolina have received nearly a foot of snow.

The Washington Metropolitan Area is expected to receive 4-6 inches of snow by late evening.

The wintry conditions unleashed travel hell, with at least 2,330 flight cancellations within, into, or out of the US. Most cancellations are at Reagan National, Baltimore/Washington International, and LaGuardia.

* * *

The timing of Monday’s winter storm for Mid-Atlantic states isn’t great as more flights have been canceled or delayed due to staffing issues and inclement weather.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a winter storm warning for Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Deleware, and South Jersey. The storm could blanket D.C. with a foot of snow by Monday night.

NWS warns that some areas could see upwards of 2 inches of snow per hour. Total snowfall could reach 10 inches in certain areas, but a large swath of the Mid-Atlantic could see 4-8 inches.

Adverse weather conditions worsened the travel situation amid a crew staffing shortage. Flight tracking firm FlightAware.com reports (as of 0700 ET) 1,800 flights within, into, or out of the U.S. were canceled, with nearly 672 delays. That follows Sunday’s 2,709 cancellations.

Reagan National, LaGuardia, Denver International, Baltimore/Washington International, Newark Liberty International, and Washington Dulles International had some of the highest flight cancellations this morning. Southwest, SkyWest, Endeavor Air, and JetBlue were the most affected airlines.

Since Christmas Eve, at least 12,000 flights have been canceled around the country, making this past holiday travel season an absolute mess for airline passengers. It appears the travel chaos will be extended for the next few days.

Zambia state power firm says nation in countrywide blackout

LUSAKA, Nov 6 (Reuters) – Zambia was experiencing a nationwide power blackout on Saturday after an unidentified problem, the state utility said, adding that it was working to restore electricity supply.

“We have lost power countrywide resulting from a fault, which is yet to be determined. The company is restarting the main sources of electricity to create stability on the system,” state-owned Zesco spokesman John Kunda said.

Kunda said the power supply was likely to be restored in six to eight hours.

Copper-rich Zambia suffered another major power outage affecting most parts of the country last month after a problem at an important hydropower station. read more

Entirety Of Lebanon Goes Dark, Mass Power Outage To Last Several Days

Entirety Of Lebanon Goes Dark, Mass Power Outage To Last Several Days

On Saturday the entirety of Lebanon was plunged into darkness, with the electricity grid shut down completely after the small Mediterranean country’s two main power stations reportedly ran out of fuel.  “The al Zahrani and the Deir Ammar power stations stopped working after supplies of diesel were apparently exhausted, and energy production dropped to below 200 megawatts,” Sky News reports.

A Lebanese official has confirmed to Reuters that the blackout is expected to last multiple days. “The Lebanese power network completely stopped working at noon today, and it is unlikely that it will work until next Monday, or for several days,” the official said.

Via BBC correspondent/Twitter

Over the past months major Lebanese cities and towns have experienced periodic blackouts, but this looks to be the worst and most far-reaching and long lasting – increasing the misery of a Lebanese population still in the midst of an economic crisis, persistent fuel shortage, and which has seen the local currency plunge by 90% since 2019.

Much of the past year in Lebanon has witnessed scenes of sometimes miles-long lines at gas stations, with fights and disputes over supplies becoming almost routine. Residents and business owners have tried to endure via generators and hoarding personal fuel supplies insofar is possible for those who can afford it.

Some Lebanese interviewed by Middle East Eye told the publication that moving about an entirely darkened city at night is like “reliving the civil war” – in reference to lengthy war and collapse of infrastructure that gripped the country from 1975 to 1990.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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