Manzoor Ahmed, Managing Director, NTDC
Manzoor Ahmed, Managing Director, NTDC

The National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC) is trying to expand its nationwide transmission capacity by 2,000 megawatts before the start of summer. Once the transmission constraints are removed the largest power sector company will be able to transmit 2,700 to 2,800 megawatts of electricity.

Last summer, the demand had peaked at 24,564MW. The enhanced NTDC transmission network will, however, still be lagging far behind the available generation capacity of around 34,400MW.

“At the moment we are targeting mostly on removing summer constraints to boost our transmission network capacity,” Manzoor Ahmed, who has been given acting charge of the office of the NTDC managing director for six months, told this correspondent recently.

“We are hopeful of completing the job of increasing our transmission network by 2,000MW. It’s a tough target but we intend to pull it off before summer demand starts rising. We are also near completion of our project for the evacuation of 500-550MW of wind power from Jhimpir in Sindh.”

The NTDC transmission network had not expanded in line with the need owing to the government’s focus only on increasing power generation capacity

Manzoor Ahmed is the fourth managing director of the company since May 2021, holding the charge for six months.”Since my tenure is short, I’m focusing only on short-term targets and projects. It, however, doesn’t mean we are ignoring other issues. We are also streaming them but, yes, my focus is completing the short term targets,” he says in reply to a question.

He rejects the popular criticism against the NTDC over frequent nationwide power outages, supply fluctuations, etc. “The issues faced by people are not because of the NTDC but because of poor maintenance of networks of distribution companies (Disco). The Discos are not keeping up with our speed or upgrading their network to support the distribution of additional supplies. Every time we undertake a transmission network expansion project, we try to inform Discos about our plans. For example, we are preparing our 10-year transmission system expansion plan and asking Discos to upgrade their networks accordingly as well. The problem is that Discos do invest in the expansion of their networks but do not invest enough in the maintenance of their assets.”

Replying to a question, he says the transmission network had not expanded in line with the generation capacity owing to multiple reasons. These include the previous government’s focus only on increasing power generation capacity without worrying about the issues in evacuation, transmission and distribution of additional megawatts. Then transmission projects take longer to complete. Nonetheless, the NTDC boss appears not to agree that the currently available generation is in excess of his company’s network capacity.

“What you must understand is that not entire generation capacity is available at any time of the year. Power availability is seasonal and actually available megawatts keep fluctuating through the year. Sometimes you don’t have hydel power; at others wind power is not available and on and on. In winter we are producing close to 200MW hydel power while our system is connected with more than 10,000 megawatts (of hydel power).

“Besides, our power demand, even at its last year’s peak, is still below our transmission network capacity. For example, the peak flow of electricity through our system had gone up to 24,564MW last year. The additional transmission network of 2,000MW this year will mean that we still have surplus capacity. In other words, we can transmit more electricity than the peak demand.”

Talking about future projects, Mr Ahmed says the government has given the NTDC two years to build a transmission network to special economic zones (SEZs) in Swabi, Haripur, Faisalabad, Sheikhupura, and Dhabeji. This is now our priority project, he adds.

Speaking about criticism on the Indicative Generation Capacity Expansion Plan (IGCEP) developed by the NTDC that it risks Pakistan “locking” itself into expensive, long-term overcapacity as a result of over-optimistic energy demand growth forecasts, he says the majority of the projects included in it had already been “committed”. “All the hydro and thermal projects included in the plan for the next 10 years are already committed. That gives us space for adding just 15 per cent of renewable energy, explaining the smaller share of wind and solar power in the plan. But we intend to increase the share of renewable energy to 30pc gradually as we move forward.”

The NTDC managing director clarifies that the NTDC is not against the recently established provincial transmission companies.” We have a monopoly over transmission until 2032 under our license. We have just asked the provinces to remove the deficiencies that can disturb our transmission system. At the end of the day, the provincial transmission system has to connect with the NTDC network. We don’t want our system to be disturbed.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, January 31st, 2022

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