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August 10, 2018

Power plan


August 10, 2018

Considering recent power shutdowns in the country, questions continue to be raised over how the new government will deal with the power crisis that has crippled the economy and social life in the country for decades. Power-sector officials are complaining about an issue that has not been brought up earlier: the absence of load-based power plants in the northern parts of the country. These power plants are supposed to provide a continuous supply of electricity throughout the year. This issue is in addition to the severely limited capacity of the country’s transmission and distribution system. The previous government focused on addressing a single issue: power generation. It added 11,000MWs of electricity in the system but failed to address other major issues that had been plaguing the power grid. The absence of continuous electricity generation in the northern regions is considered another reason for the imbalance in the grid, which overloads grid stations and causes transmission lines to trip. The issue is considered to be one of the key reasons why power-sector operators are forced to choose loadshedding as a way of avoiding a complete blackout.

This issue is another reminder that addressing the country’s power-sector issues is a task that will have to be performed away from the glare of the camera. The PML-N government’s approach centred on launching new power plants, which are able to garner press attention and create a buzz, but do nothing to increase the capacity of the transmission system to actually carry the bulk electricity that would be produced by such plants. However, given that the PML-N has addressed the generation capacity issue, the next government would be served better by addressing the serious issues plaguing the transmission system. Whether it can address the issue of balancing the geographic distribution of power supply is a more significant challenge. The water supply in hydroelectric dams has fallen by around 40 percent, which has reduced the electricity generated in the northern parts of the country. Officials suggest the installation of at least two load-based power plants in the north, which would be essential to sorting out the issue. There is a need for a systemic review of what is needed to solve the issues plaguing the power sector. Much like the National Water Policy announced recently, it would make sense to identify a detailed plan forward for the power sector that accounts for technical and economic challenges. The ongoing piecemeal approach to power-sector crisis management has obviously failed.

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