The 969 MW Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Plant Project (NJHPP) has been shut for 13 days due to a malfunction that blocked one of its two 3.5km tunnels.
The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), while taking notice of the shutdown since July 6, directed the management to expedite its restoration as early as possible.
The management has not identified the exact technical issue that caused the blockage so far despite the passage of two weeks and was reportedly clueless when questioned during a briefing to NEPRA.
The plant management told NEPRA that their experts are investigating the fault and will take remedial measures once detected.
NEPRA Chairman Tauseef H. Farooqi and member Engineering Maqsood Anwar Khan directed the CEO Neelum-Jhelum plant to expedite the restoration for connecting it to the national grid considering its importance as a reliable and cheap source of renewable power generation.
According to NEPRA, the plant’s closure is putting an additional burden of around Rs350 million per day on consumers as expensive residual fuel oils (RFO)-based power plants are being engaged to generate power.
The plant’s shutdown comes amid unannounced and prolonged power load-shedding in the country.
Insiders said that the delay in finding out what caused the blockage is because the management has limited resources.
They said that the NJHPP has two tunnels and the issue which happened in one of the tunnels cannot be solved by local contractors and opined that the services of an international firm should immediately be hired so that the plant can be made operational as early as possible.
“There is no fault in the hydropower plant or in the tunnel that is used to bring water from the river to the power plant. However, another tunnel that diverts water from the plant to the river has suffered a blockage while efforts are underway to remove the fault,” a source in the Water Resources Ministry said.
Earlier on July 14, Water Resources Ministry Secretary Kazim Niaz, while briefing the National Assembly Committee on Water Resources, had said that the problem can only be understood by clearing the blocked tunnel whereas it could take a month to clear it.