Hydroelectric power production dips 25% in Dec 2017

Prolonged project overhauls believed to be behind the decline

Salman Siddiqui January 23, 2018
Prolonged project overhauls believed to be behind the decline. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: Although power production increased in Pakistan in December 2017 after the addition of several new coal, nuclear and wind power projects in recent months, but output of the cheapest source - hydel - dropped significantly.

Power production by hydroelectric power projects fell 25% to 1,231.53 gigawatt-hour (GWh) in December 2017 compared to 1,642.65 GWh in the corresponding month of previous year, according to the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra).

The drop in production came despite better water management in dams and rivers this winter and the decline may be linked with prolonged overhaul of the projects as compared to the plan.

Overall production, however, improved 8% to 7,762.84 GWh in December 2017 from 7,199.66 GWh in December 2016. The increase in production came after several new gas, coal, nuclear and wind power projects started churning out energy.

Pakistan saw a fresh addition of over 5,000 megawatts in calendar year 2017. Over 80% of that was achieved with the help of imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) injection into the system.

In December, there was also a massive surge in power production from imported coal-fired projects in Punjab.

Power production from this source soared 360 times to 909.59 GWh from a negligible 2.53 GWh in December 2016, showed the data released by Nepra.

The sharp increase in the share of coal-based power production (12% in total energy mix compared to 0.04% a year earlier) offset a massive drop in hydroelectric and oil-fired electricity output. Production by furnace oil-fired projects fell 16% to 2,251.45 GWh from 2,673.30 GWh. Diesel-fuelled power generation slipped to 51.47 GWh from 60.62 GWh in December 2016.

The oil-based power production dropped after the government abruptly closed most of these plants with the start of LNG and coal-fired projects in October and November 2017.

It, however, allowed limited resumption of work at the oil-based power plants in December in a bid to address an emerging glut in the oil supply chain.

Local and imported gas-based power production remained stable in December despite the diversion of gas for domestic consumption in peak winter months.

The situation is expected to improve by next winter as public gas utilities - Sui Southern Gas Company and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines - are actively working on laying two additional pipelines from Karachi to Punjab.

These pipelines will transmit LNG from Karachi’s seaports to Punjab where authorities have launched LNG-based power projects of around 3,600 megawatts.

Production from nuclear and renewable energy sources like wind and solar also went up in December 2017.

Tariff cut proposal

Power distribution companies have, in a petition filed to Nepra, sought a downward revision of Rs2.77 per unit in the tariff for December 2017.

The proposed reduction, which will take the tariff to Rs5.33 per unit, will not be applicable to the consumers of K-Electric, which is a privatised company that separately seeks the tariff revision.

To take a decision on the petition, Nepra has scheduled a public hearing for January 25 in Islamabad.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2018.

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