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LAHORE: The commercial operation of the 969MW Neelum Jhleum Hydropower Project (NJHP) continues to be delayed, as the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) has extended the CoD (Commercial Operation Date) for the scheme to September.

Though Wapda earlier planned to complete the CoD of the project’s first unit (242MW) in April, this year, followed by second, third and fourth unit in May, June and July respectively, it could not start trial run of one of the four units (Unit-4). However, the CoD of the same unit was delayed for another four months after the experts identified some technical issues in the machine during various tests and sought replacement of some parts (labyrinth and lower sleeve).

“After the successful completion of the reliability test period, the Unit No 3 has been formally taken over by Wapda for operation. Having being successfully tested on various load rejection, the Unit No 2 is generating electricity on its 72-hour reliability run. The Unit No 4 is getting ready for a one-month reliability test period, while, the Unit No 1 is undergoing through various tests in accordance with the contractual obligations and is expected to go on trial generation during next month,” reads a press release issued by Wapda.

“The 969MW NJHP is expected to generate power up to its maximum generation capacity by September. And so far, it has provided over 311 million units of electricity to the national grid,” it reads.

Wapda says the contribution of the NJHP to the national grid has increased to 484MW, as two units of the project (Unit No 3 and Unit No 2) are now generating power to their maximum capacity. The NJHP is a state-of-the art hydropower project with 90% being underground and beneath the high mountainous areas. The project, constructed on the River Neelum in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, has a dam at Nauseri, an underground waterway system consisting of 52-km long tunnels and an underground powerhouse at Chattar Kalas with four power generating units. “The project will provide about five billion units of electricity to the national grid every year with annual estimated benefits of Rs55 billion,” the release said.

According to a source in the energy sector, since none of the project’s four units has completed all the tests, their CoD’s may delay further. “The CoD means the final date on which all tests, commissioning etc have been concluded and the machines/turbines start producing electricity for sale. Before the CoD, the entire operation of such projects would be considered as trial, temporary or test one,” said the source.

A senior Wapda official rejected the impression and stated: “There would be no further delay, as all units are passing tests these days and all will complete the CoD in September.”

He claimed that there was a delay of just one month or so, as the authority was scheduled to complete the project’s CoD by July or August. So if there is a delay of one or two months, it is not a big issue. “Two of the four units are presently contributing 484MW to the national grid,” the official said.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2018