After spending decades tackling electricity shortages, Pakistan now faces a new and unfamiliar problem: too much generation capacity.
The South Asian nation’s power supply flipped to a surplus last year after a flurry of coal- and natural gas-fired plants were built, mostly financed by the Belt and Road Initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. Pakistan is slated to have as much as 50% too much electricity by 2023, according to Tabish Gauhar, special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan for the power sector. That is problematic because the government is the sole buyer of electricity and pays producers even when they don’t generate. To help tackle the issue, the government has negotiated with producers to end that system, lower their tariffs and asked them to delay the start of new projects, according to Gauhar. It is also trying to convince industries to switch to electricity from gas.
“Pakistan has overcapacity, yet it still has power shortages because of the unreliability of the grid,” said Simon Nicholas, an analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis. “They haven’t invested in the grid the same way they’ve invested in power plants.”