After spending decades tackling electricity shortages, Pakistan now faces a new and unfamiliar problem: too much generation capacity.
That is problematic because the government is the sole buyer of electricity and pays producers even when they don’t generate. To help tackle the issue, the government has negotiated with producers to end that system, lower their tariffs and asked them to delay the start of new projects, according to Gauhar. It is also trying to convince industries to switch to electricity from gas. “We have a lot of expensive electricity and that is a burden,” he said.
While the Chinese financing and the surplus is a welcome change after years of shortages that left exporters unable to meet orders and major cities without electricity for much of the day, two main problems remain. The first is a creaking network, and the second is the need to supply cheaper power while keeping emissions in check.
The last nationwide blackout happened just last month after an outage at the country’s largest facility. While the new plants have also boosted coal generation to a record fifth of the power mix, Pakistan plans to increase the share of wind and solar to 30%, while another 30% will be generated from river-run dams.
Pakistan will pay private power producers 450 billion rupees ($2.8 billion) in overdue electricity bills in a deal to reduce future tariffs. The government targets to pay 40% of that bill by the end of February, with the second payment slated before December, according to Gauhar. A third of the payment will be made in cash, with the rest in fixed income instruments, he added.
About 8 gigawatts worth of government-owned power plants will also have tariffs reduced. And Pakistan plans to negotiate lower tariffs for mining and power generation at the Thar coalfield, said Gauhar.
The government aims to delay about 10 gigawatts worth of planned power projects, including coal and wind plants, since there won’t be any need for them next year, said Gauhar.