Karachi’s energy needs are constantly evolving as the megacity expands vertically and horizontally. Even today, the megacity provides tremendous opportunities for employment through the industries and commercial activity that takes place here, which subsequently keeps driving the national economy. These include sectors as sprawled as industrial parks or limited microeconomies in the form of SMEs and everyday commercial units. More importantly, a bulging youth population has grown a reliance on ICT systems for work, life, and pleasure, which is demonstrated in usage numbers that have significantly increased in the last 10 years due to changing lifestyles and aspirations.
As the power utility associated with the Karachi for over a century, K-Electric is also preparing for a future where stability in economic conditions further accelerates the usage of electricity for industrial, residential, and commercial growth. Peak demands for electricity are expected to exceed 5000MW by 2030 on the back of an expected 5 million customers who will need energy for their everyday lives. To achieve this vision, KE has developed a Rs484 billion investment plan to ensure that its customers have access to safe, reliable, uninterrupted power supply under a non-exclusive distribution license which remains in final approvals process with the regulatory authority, NEPRA.
How will it happen?
To meet the complex energy needs of a growing customer base, KE’s investment plan envisions a series of investments for its transmission, distribution, supply, and generation units. Transmission capacity enhancement is a major lever in improving the volume of continuous delivery of power to electricity users. PKR 281 billion have been earmarked for growth and capacity enhancements including a major interconnection point called the KKI Grid for additional power offtake from the national grid and IPPs. It will enable the company to channel affordable power towards the megacity. The KKI Grid will be K-Electric’s first 500 kV grid which means its enhanced capacity will be capable in channeling a larger volume of electrical power towards Karachi. Further investments are being targeted towards improvement in the network’s reliability, including the construction of new 220 kV and 132 kV grid stations which will shoulder the demand of industries, emerging housing blocs and commercial activities across Karachi, while also increasing efficiency of the system. This investment also seeks to proactively replace equipment as they complete their useful life and reduce power interruptions by 30% compared to today.
KE has submitted separate petitions for transmission, distribution, and generation along with a Power Acquisition Program (PAP) which details how the company is going to intake additional power generation towards Karachi in IPP mode. Under the PAP, KE plans to import 82 MW of clean hydel energy from Pakistan’s northern areas and add another 200MW of wind power and 900 MW of solar that is expected to take KE’s renewable energy generation up to 1182 MW. Further plans are underway for the induction of 990MW of cheap, indigenous fueled power which will help lower generation costs and delink from expensive imported fuel supply chains. These plans are aligned with Pakistan’s National Electricity Plan that envisages to increase the country’s renewable share to 60 percent of total generation capacity as well as a vision to increase electricity access to 96 percent of the Pakistan’s population and further reduce the fuel burden and carbon emissions by 50 percent. Amid tough macroeconomic conditions, KE is working diligently to enable access to affordable energy for its customers with projects expected to begin soon after due regulatory approvals.
To complement the investments in the transmission and generation side, a Distribution Network Improvement Plan (NIP) envisages a capital expenditure of Rs185 billion.
This will be focused on incorporating data driven methods to double down on reducing outages and limit their spread while ensuring a reduction on network losses (at 15.3 percent today) and improving operational efficiency and customer journey. KE is very aware of the benefits of using data to drive optimization for operations. Technology interventions like Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and the advent of smart meters (AMIs) and GIS enable greater visibility over the network. Accurate and robust mapping of the network enables the company to conduct targeted corrective and preventive maintenance, and makes it easier to track demand-supply trends which can improve forecasting for the future. A significant investment is also being allocated towards the digitization of commercial services and customer services. With over 1 million digitally connected customers already today, KE is working on enhancing its services so that customers can lodge complaints, pay bills, and make requests for new connections in a more seamless manner without having the trouble to physically visit KE’s integrated business centers.
Through these interventions, KE is angling towards becoming a more agile company which uses technology to serve customers in meaningful ways and improve their experience. In the future, systems like an Advanced Analytics & Artificial Intelligence program and GIS will reduce the turnaround time of complaints because of these smart interventions. With the further deployment of smart meters, KE’s complaint administration system will transition from one of reactive addressal to a preemptive mode and further reduce service interruptions.
All of these will require inputs in the IT infrastructure particularly as the Industrial 4.0 revolution takes hold in earnest across the globe and the power sector, KE plans to upgrade such infrastructure to support the technological growth and capacity of the company. This investment will command a Rs18.5 billion which will support data governance, Internet-of-Things (IoT), machine learning, Artificial Intelligence capabilities, converge Operational Technologies with IT and cybersecurity.
These investments totaling to Rs484 billion are envisioned over the next 7 years, whereas since privatization, the company has invested almost Rs474 billion across the value chain as well which has resulted in performance improvement and the provision of uninterrupted power to a growing portion of the network. Various public reports showcase that this investment reduced line losses by half, doubled the customer base and power consumed, and exponentially expanded Karachi’s electrical infrastructure.
As a forward-thinking energy company and a footprint that is embedded and tuned into Karachi’s on-ground realities, KE looks forward to soaring new frontiers with their customers now, and those of the future in 2030 to foster prosperity and growth for them, for Karachi and for Pakistan at large.
– The write is a KE official