Hydropower maintenance to exacerbate Pakistan power shortage

PAKISTAN - Pakistan, already facing a major power shortfall, is likely to be hit by an even larger power shortage during a period of about a week, beginning December 26.

Almost all the hydropower plants in the country are likely to become inoperable because of the closure of the canals feeding the plants. The canals are scheduled to be desilted, and other repair works are to be carried out on the headworks and weirs.

Pakistan's hydropower plants generate about 6,500 megawatts (MW) and when the water released from the Tarbela and Mangla reservoirs is reduced from 140,000 cubic feet per second to 5,000 cubic feet per second, the power projects will be rendered inoperable. In early October, the water released from the two dams was reduced to 60,000 cubic feet per second, resulting in a power shortfall of over 3,000 MW.

According to Tahir Basharat Cheema, the Director General of Energy Management & Conservation of the Pakistan Electric Power Company Limited, the country is currently facing a shortfall of 1,000 MW during the day and 1,500 MW in the evenings. The water released from the Tarbela reservoir has already been reduced from 70,000 cubic feet per second to 36,000 cubic feet per second, while the Mangla reservoir has been reduced from 42,000 cubic feet per second to 27,000 cubic feet per second. As a result, the hydropower generation has fallen from the 6,500 MW generated in August-September to 2,500 MW.

According to official sources, the main purpose of the water released from the dams is to meet the irrigational needs of the nation, and power generation is simply a byproduct. Consequently, when the canals are closed for the annual desilting and headworks repair, no water will be released for power generation purposes.

The country will have to face massive hikes in load shedding during this period. The steel mills and other industries will also have to cope with the huge reduction in power supply. Industries are likely to face five to six hours of load shedding each day.

According to Cheema, the impact of the power crisis will not be as bad as it was last year because the company has developed an elaborate plan to ensure that the common people are least affected. He explained that all thermal power plants would run at full capacity, as would all independent power producers. He said the country would continue to receive 81 MW from Malakand-3 and 165 MW from Attock Gen Limited Power.

Pakistan will also receive 350 MW from the AES Pak Gen Thermal Power Plant, which is scheduled to come online by December 13 after the plant's annual maintenance period, and 180 MW from Muzaffarabad, which is scheduled to begin operation on December 15.

The Jamshoro Thermal Power House in Sindh will be contributing 200 MW from December 25, and the two units of the 150-MW Guddu Thermal Power House are scheduled to become operational after their annual maintenance. The 1,126 MW procured from these sources are expected to minimize the impact of the upcoming power deficit.

Another 1,000 MW is expected to be saved through conservation of electricity, as the past year saw the sale of 5 million energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs, and this year has already seen the sale of 30 million such bulbs. Also, the Tarbela reservoir will continue to release about 8,500 cubic feet per second of water and this will enable the turbines in the dam, Ghazi Barotha and Chashma, to generate about 500 to 750 MW of power even during the canal closure period.

Another reason for the prevailing power deficit is the zero electricity being generated by the country's three gas-based powerhouses. The 285-MW Pikhi and Sheikhupura rental powerhouses and the 210-MW GTPS Faisalabad powerhouse have not been functioning because of the nominal supply of gas received. The powerhouses are receiving 8.5 million cubic feet of gas per day against the required 100 million cubic feet per day.


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