Water and Power-Development Authority (WAPDA) has yet to fulfill all of its fundamental requirements when it comes to providing power throughout the country. In order to combat the energy shortfall, the power company is gearing up to inaugurate the new Neelum-Jhelum hydro power plant early next year.
Is WAPDA prepared for the launch?
The cost of the project is to be estimated around Rs 515 billion. The astronomical costs associated with the project has made key government institutions cautious about the power plant.
The institutions think that it will be disadvantageous to launch the plant now, as there has been no proper planning behind it. The project, in its current state, has the potential of failing like the Nandipur power project.
Furthermore, WAPDA has not yet applied to the National Electric Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) for tariff setting. It is known that this setting process can take up to one month at the least.
The concerned authorities are so far behind in the planning that they have not even decided about who is going to apply for this project. Will this project fall under their umbrella organization or should the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project Company (NJC) itself apply for the tariff setting as a special purpose vehicle for the plant? Questions remain.
In addition to all of this, the NJC has not even started talks with Central Power Purchasing Agency (CPPA) regarding the Power Purchase Agreement which is one of the main requirement that needs to be fulfilled before the plant can sell electricity.
Absence of tripartite agreement
The project has been under development for 15 years yet there is no formal agreement between the three major organizations involved in its development. The Azad Kashmir government, Wapda and the federal government have yet to reach an agreement regarding their different rights and responsibilities under the project.
Shortcomings on the Technical side
The China and the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC), contracted by WAPDA on the project, is not ready to face the problems that may come with its launch.
They are not ready to complete the 525kV transmission lines, powering 525kV switchyard or tests performed by third party for validation of the project.
A meeting was held on 14th November to discuss the progress of the project. The chairman of WAPDA was surprised to find out that it was mandatory for a switchyard to be validated by a third-party to ensure that it would not cause any harm and will be safe for the grid spread all over the country in a back-feed situation.
The switchyard is still under construction and would require another 2-3 months to be completed. The validation process alone can take over a couple of months.
A meeting between the Chinese contractor CMEC, Wapda, NJC and NTDC on Nov 14 noted a total of six incomplete tasks on part of various parties concerning this project.
It was concluded at the end of the meeting that there are six major tasks that are yet to be done. If this was not enough, WAPDA has also made an announcement of inaugurate the project by the end of February 2018.