The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) on Tuesday snubbed the chief executive officer of Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project for the closure of plant, which put a burden of Rs350 million per day on consumers.
The 969-megawatt Neelum-Jhelum power plant had been shut on July 6, 2022 due to a technical fault.
The power-sector regulator noted that the consumers were bearing an additional burden of Rs350 million per day as many power plants were being run on expensive fuel.
Before being closed, the Neelum-Jhelum plant had been producing 950MW to 960MW in the peak summer season at almost full capacity to meet the rising demand for electricity.
However, the management of the plant has so far not been able to rectify the technical fault and restore operations.
According to a statement issued by the regulator, the management of Neelum-Jhelum project called on Nepra officials and briefed them about the latest developments regarding the plant, which had not been functioning since July 6 due to some technical glitch.
The project management apprised Nepra that their experts were investigating the fault and would take remedial measures once the fault was detected.
Nepra Chairman Tauseef H Farooqi and Member Engineer Maqsood Anwar Khan directed the Neelum-Jhelum project CEO to expedite the restoration of plant to connect it to the national grid considering its importance as a reliable and cheaper source of renewable electricity.
The regulator expressed concern over failure to restore the power plant, saying the consumers were facing an additional burden of Rs350 million per day.
Consumers were bearing the extra burden due to the consumption of electricity produced by expensive fuel sources, which would be passed on to them on account of monthly fuel cost adjustment.
Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif held a meeting and expressed concern over the closure of Neelum-Jhelum power plant. He directed the project management to rectify the fault and restore operations immediately to provide cheaper electricity for the consumers.
The premier gave directive for conducting an inquiry by international institutions to find out the reason behind the technical fault and for taking immediate measures to restart the plant.
The Neelum-Jhelum plant suffered a fault following the blockage of water in a tunnel area of 3.5 km that shut down the plant, taking out 950MW of electricity from the national grid and resulting in prolonged power outages.
According to a preliminary report, the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) has no knowledge of the magnitude of loss.
The project management was pumping water into the tunnel to remove the blockage. The tunnel is used to pump water from the Neelum-Jhelum River to the power plant to generate electricity and the water is again pumped into the tunnel for its flow to the river.
At present, there is no fault in the water tunnel that is used to bring water from the river to the power plant and even the power plant has no fault. However, a tunnel that diverts water from the power plant to the river has suffered water blockage.
Wapda has also engaged consultants to resolve the issue. However, there was no deadline to address the matter, officials of the Water Resources Division said. Nepra had taken serious notice of the fault in the plant that deprived the consumers of cheaper 969MW of hydel power in the summer season when electricity demand grew significantly.
The hydropower station has been closed amid tight security. The closure of the plant has been conveyed to all the departments concerned through the water resources ministry.
With the closure of the power station, the country’s electricity shortfall reached 7,324MW. The duration of power outages was up to 16 hours and it was even longer in areas where losses were very high.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2022.
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