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LAHORE: The National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC) has reportedly spent Rs90 billion, yet needs more funds to upgrade its system for smooth transmission of electricity to the distribution network.

Similarly, the distribution system needs further upgrading for supplying electricity to consumers despite spending billions of rupees.

The NTDC, which started its commercial operation in December 1998, is liable to operate and maintain all 500 kilovolts and 220kV grid stations and transmission lines in the country. Similarly, power distribution companies (Discos) are entrusted with the job to operate and maintain the 132kV, 66kV, 33kV and 11kV distribution network.

“Despite spending Rs90 billion during the past few years by the government, the NTDC’s system needs more upgrading, particularly at two major hot spots -- 500kV Rawat (Islamabad) and Gatti (Faisalabad) grid stations. These stations are causing major problems in smooth transmission of electricity to the distribution system, adding to the miseries of consumers in the form of tripping, fluctuation, low voltage etc,” claimed a senior official of the energy ministry (power division).

Presently, the Rawat and Gatti grid stations and the transmission lines connected with them continue to face overloading, compelling the Discos to observe forced shutdowns to reduce burden on the 500kV/220kV system. Rawat needs immediate addition of a 750MVA transformer, while Gatti requires replacement of old transformers with new ones or addition of same equipment.

“The NTDC is facing various issues right from a delay in land acquisition for new projects and procurement, receipt and installation of important equipment at various hot spots of its transmission system. Although it upgraded its system, it needs to do more for which it requires sufficient resources. Similarly, the distribution system, particularly of those facing massive losses, already requires huge funds to get rid of the constraints,” the official explained.

The reasons behind delay in upgrading of the system also included non-allocation of funds under the Public Sector Development Programme and lack of interest of international funding agencies.

The government’s focus also remained towards allocating funds for various power generation projects (hydel, thermal, wind, solar) and not transmission and distribution ones under the PSDP.

“The international agencies also preferred funding power generation projects instead of transmission or distribution ones,” he further said.

“Although power is being generated, our system is not able to fully transmit and distribute it smoothly.”

The official claimed that the situation would improve gradually, as the power division had directed the quarters concerned to complete various upgrading tasks on fast track.

“It is an ongoing process; the system continues to pass through a phase of upgrading keeping in view the increasing power generation and demand. However, the NTDC, in particular, has been directed to complete the upgrade of 500kV Rawat and Gatti grids as soon as possible,” he added.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2018