Pakistan – Electric Power & Renewables

Pakistan Expands its Electricity Sector

Published: 05 February 2019

Insufficient reserve capacity

Between 2008 and 2018, Pakistan expanded its installed power plant capacity from 18 GW to 34 GW. Plans envisage further expansion to almost 70 GW by 2025. However, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) expects delays, especially for planned hydroelectric power plants. According to the local Ministry of Energy, peak loads rose by 4.8 GW to 25.4 GW between 2014 and 2018. Peak load is usually reached in June, when it is more than 50% above the level during the low-load period in December. In the medium term, an annual increase in peak load of 4% to 5% is expected.

Since the operational power plant capacity is significantly below the installed capacity, there were low or no reserves at peak load times in 2018. Pakistan operates two separate power grids, though electricity can be exchanged between the two. The network of the National Transmission & Dispatch Company (NTDC) supplies all of Pakistan with the exception of the economic metropolis of Karachi, for which Karachi Electric (KEL) is responsible.


Pakistan: Projected power plant capacities 2018 to 2021 (in MW)

Year Planned installed capacity Planned available capacity at peak load time Projected peak load demand Deficit / surplus
2017 26,186 19,020 25,117 -6,097
2018 33,961 26,135 25,227 908
2019 37,634 28,357 26,348 2,009
2020 39,822 29,314 27,420 1,894
2021 45,623 34,124 28,601 5,523
2017 2,213 3,128 3,359 -231
2018 3,590 3,046 3,435 -389
2019 4,430 3,833 3,601 232
2020 4,520 3,978 3,791 187
2021 5,220 4,615 4,011 604

Notes: NEPRA projected values; 2017 values are actual values; values were missed in 2018

Sources: National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA); National Transmission & Dispatch Company (NTDC); Karachi Electric (KEL)


CPEC program will bring new power plants

The lack of reserve capacity requires scheduled power cuts (load shedding) and causes widespread power outages in the event of unplanned outfalls at large power plants. On November 12, 2018, during a low-load period, the failure of the 1,260 MW Bin Qasim power plant in Karachi led to a power outage that affected 80% of the city. It was the fifth time the power grid in Karachi collapsed within only two months. At the beginning of January 2018, electricity in Islamabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Gujranwala, among other cities, had to be switched off by the hour because the capacity of the NTDC grid fell short by 3 GW. The power failures are caused by the overloaded, often dilapidated power grid.

Additional power plant capacity will be realized as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) program. The necessary capital comes primarily from China in the form of direct investments or long-term loans. Private Chinese investors primarily provide financing themselves with loans from the China Development Bank and the China Exim Bank. In turn, China encourages Pakistani and foreign companies to participate in the projects.


Pakistan: Power plant projects as part of the CPEC initiative (as of January 2019)

Project Capacity (in MW) Total investment (in million US$) Project status, commissioning Operator
Coal Power Plant / Port Qasim Karachi 1,320 2,085 OP, 2018 Port Qasim Electric Power Company
Coal Power Plant / Hub, Balochistan 1,320 1,995 UC, 2019 China Power Hub Generation Company
Sahiwal Coal Power Plant 1,320 1,800 OP, 2017 Huaneng Shandong Ruyi Energy Pakistan Company
Suki Kinari Hydropower Station 870 1,802 UC, 2022 Suki Kinari / China Gezhouba Group
Karot Hydropower Station 720 1,698 UC, 2021 Karot Power / CSAIL / CTGI /China Three Gorges
Thar Coal Power Plant 1 660 1,100 UC, 2019 Engro Power Generation Thar / China Machinery Engineering
Quaid-e-Azam PV Solar Park 1 300 460 OP, 2016 Appolo, Best & Crest
UEP Wind Farm 99 252 OP, 2017 UEP Wind Power Company
Sachal Energy Wind Farm 50 134 OP, 2017 Sachal Energy Development Company
Dawood Wind Farm 50 115 OP, 2017 Hydrochina Dawood Power Company
Three Gorges 2. Wind Power Project 50 112 OP, 2018 Three Gorges Second Wind Farm Pakistan
Three Gorges 3. Wind Power Project 50 112 OP, 2018 Three Gorges Third Wind Farm Pakistan

Notes: CPEC = China-Pakistan Economic Corridor; OP = Operational; UC = Under Construction

Source: Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Pakistan


China spends billions on new power plants

Chinese power plants are increasing the share of private independent power plants (IPPs), which accounted for approx. 60% of electricity generation in 2018. Under the CPEC program, a total of eight power plants with a total capacity of 3.2 GW were constructed between 2017 and 2018. Of this, two power plants fired with imported coal from Indonesia, South Africa and Australia account for 2.6 GW. Two other coal-fired power plants totaling 2 GW and two hydropower plants totaling 1.6 GW are currently under construction. Additional coal-fired power plants totaling 3.3 GW are planned for Pakistan’s large coal region in the Thar Desert. The project of a 1,320 MW imported-coal power plant in Rahimyar Khan was cancelled.

Among the planned Chinese investments is a 300 MW power plant in the port city of Gwadar which would be fueled by imported coal. The investor is Shanghai-based CIHC Group. However, the provincial government is criticizing the coal project due to an expected negative environmental impact. Gwadar is seen as a modern, environmentally friendly city, and the coal-fired power plant does not fit with this concept. For Gwadar, a gas-fired hybrid power plant with solar and wind power components had been discussed, but the originally planned LNG import terminal was cancelled.

Renewable energy to be expanded aggressively

So far, renewable energy has played a minor role in Pakistan’s energy-production mix. The proportion of renewables is currently only 5% (solar, wind, and bagasse/biomass but excluding hydropower). Gas, oil and coal account for 63%, hydroelectric power for 27% and nuclear power for 5%. The Ministry of Energy has set a new target of a 20% share of renewables in power plant capacity by 2025 and a 30% share by 2030. A corresponding concept should be presented in spring 2019 after consultation with the provinces.

Pakistan’s largest renewable energy project, a 300 MW photovoltaic park in Bahawalpur (Punjab), was recently completed and is to be expanded by an additional 700 MW. Five wind farms totaling 300 MW are in operation. Additional wind farms are also planned, including two China-financed farms of 50 MW each.