SADAF AURANGZAIB, Senior Correspondent
Nov 06 - 12, 2006

KESC management has invested over US $ 60 million in upgrading the power supply system of Karachi. Steps are being taken to rectify infrastructural shortcomings and enhance customer services to ensure reliable power supply and quick response to breakdowns and customer complaints.

We met Mr. Frank Scherschmidt, the CEO of KESC, who himself has a vast experience in electricity generation and transmission and has worked on several places for commissioning power stations and remained responsible for eight years in Munich for a continuous power supply to the city. He has also worked and evolved the East Germany power system which he resembles much with Karachi. He is the man who has taken challenges in the field of his passion that is electricity and power; let's listen to his optimism about his Karachi venture and its power situation.

PAGE: First of all, tell us about the rising development situation of KESC as a whole?

FS: At the moment we have a reduced demand. During the summer we built up stability a bit and now we have made the generation run smoothly. It is under normal condition with less tripping. We have by some security mission also reduced the conductor theft cases so the transmission lines are fine also. At the moment the biggest problem is that the supply system is completely overloaded that means we have to protect our lines from overheating and burning so we have to switch off even when we have enough power. This is the biggest problem.

PAGE: Is this the only factor or the shortage of power is another reason that there still persists an intermittent power supply failures in different parts of the city?

FS: We have now a better supply. We have a better positivity to bring energy to the city, which is also being increased. Thanks to WAPDA that we have grown up a little more in MW but the problem is that we don't have a stable situation. The most disturbing factor is that we have 11 kilowatt cable system which is spread on about 700 kilometers and that's why we have lots of breakdowns per day. These cables are worn out and not properly laid underground, the material was not up to the mark and the construction was not proper when they were installed. This we have to replace in the next year. This cannot be done in half year but slowly we will move and make it happen. At the moment we are always running behind when this sort of situation comes across.

PAGE: Have you overcome the shortage that was there during the peak summer time of this year, which is about 250MW?

FS: Not at the moment. What has happened is that the demand is reduced now and we have a lot more power with us. No one has invested during the last 10 years and we have to face this situation as it is but we have an improvement plan with us. Improvement plan is also for rehabilitation of generation in Unit 1V and Unit V of Bin Qasim. We have reduced Unit V and Unit 1V both to 60 MW. Initially we are working on Unit V, later we will work on Unit V1 so in the beginning of next year we will have an additional 120 MW of electricity on our back. There is also rehabilitation in the heaters, in pipes, boilers and in the whole instrumentation and controls so on total we are working on to bring up 200 MW by rehabilitation in generation. Also, wherever we see that there is a chance to do something without high investment, we go for it. Then we have additional new power station in pipeline. This will start in April next year when the new gas turbines will come up. There will be four gas turbines which we will open in the next year, giving an additional supply of 500 MW. This whole process will bring us on a better generation capability. When we have enough power, we have to think that we even have to transfer that to customers, there we have to work hard for better distribution with the help of more and better pole mounted transformers, lot more cables, lot more switches. We have in the pipeline 12 new grid stations and for that we have a budget and a plan. We have started now this maintenance and rehabilitation program in September and we have lot to do in this short period and it will continue till April next year. From September to April it will be on the maximum possible speed and maximum possible work but after April when we have to continue our work as lot of work is needed in the transmission, distribution and generation which we couldn't stop but we will have to slow down on the pace of it as we will not be able to carry out shutdowns, what we can do now. The difference between summer and winter load consumption is about 300-400 MW as people are not using their air conditioners which alone takes up around 600 MW of electricity. So with this reduced consumption we will get some space to work on the system. As we are upgrading, we have to do shutdowns, that is why we shut down one of the unit in Bin Qasim power station on the 4th of September and now it will be completed in the second week of November. After that we will achieve our production of additional 200 MW at Bin Qasim. The present capacity of Bin Qasim is about 1000 MW so with this additional 200MW it will go up to 1200 MW. We have installed 6 units in Bin Qasim and 3 units in Korangi, and we have gas turbines in Korangi and in SITE so the installed capacity overall is 1736 MW but at the moment we are down to 1336 MW because of not having proper maintenance that means 420MW are missing and that we don't have. By this rehabilitation program we will meet the nearest to total generation. Now when we have the better supply we need an improved load dispatch centre. At the moment we are really in the Stone Age by doing it only by telephone. We will have a new control room for the whole city in future. This would be the place where people can watch the power situation in the city on the screen, on the wall where we will have meters, lamps and alarms. There we will also have the possibility to remotely control the situation. If something goes wrong, we can switch on and off the electricity supply. What is happening is that we are doing the load management absolutely manually through telephone and wireless information but then with new load dispatch center which is called SCADA i.e. Surveillance Control Data Acquisition which means that the whole city network will be monitored on a digital screen and it can be remotely checked and corrected. Shut off and shut on can be done by sitting inside control room.


Feeders installed


(220 planned by 07)

LT- Capacitors installed


(940 planned by 07)

HT- Capacitors installed


(636 planned by 07)

Cables installed

48 km

(550 Km planned by 07)

Grid stations on progress


13 planned by 07)

Transformers in progress


25 planned by 07)

PAGE: Where from you are buying gas turbines and what is your plan for future power station?

FS: We have to build and complete the power station and for this we have bought the gas turbines (four pieces) from Italy. These gas turbines will run step by step, each one will produce 120 MW and later in 2008 we'll put up new boilers and new steam turbines and this will be a combine cycle of gas and steam turbines and this will give up to 776 MW in total and then we can really go parallel with the demand situation. The installed capacity of the plant is 830MW according to ISO standard but due to the warm condition and climate of Karachi it will produce up to 776MW of electricity.

PAGE: How do you see the growing demand of electricity in the city?

FS: The next year power demand that we are expecting is somewhere between 2500-2800 MW but we don't have the exact figures, these are all projections. You don't know what will happen. When we put more power on table perhaps they will eat more. As some people might switched off their own private generation and some people who have asked for electricity for many years will get the power and this could cause the demand to jump up in an unusual fashion and you don't know where it will end.

The more there will be economic activity like there are a lot of government programs coming up; the textile city is coming up. The EDP is being upgraded, Bin Qasim Port area is being upgraded, and all this will require more electricity but our projection keeping in mind the historical trend of increase is estimated at around 2500-2800 MW. We are optimistic to manage it as we have all the tools in our mind.

PAGE: What is the current demand and supply position?

FS: The current demand is alright as it has gone down to around 1800 MW and we have supplies available up to 2200MW so 1800 MW is not difficult to manage. But the problem why people still face the interruption is because of the still towers network loading and this overloading sometimes cause wire to get hot, sometimes transformers get hot so we have to switch the transmission off for these kind of reasons.

PAGE: And this all is because the things were not installed properly in the past?

FS: No, they were installed but not upgraded to demand as for up-gradation you require more funds every time. We even don't have any control on AC supplies, anyone could buy the machine and install it at his place, there are no demand curves to give an idea and this is too late to do any such thing as we have no control on what has happened in the past.

PAGE: The power demand is 7% on an annual basis, will the same demand rate sustain or will it go up?

FS: This future rate will be even higher. Our predictions are made on this 7%. We feel that the industry and new housing projects will take it up to 8% or even more. With the better supply situation, the demand could reach to 10%.

According to our 10-year plan we predict that by 2015 we will need something like 6000MW of electricity so we have to systematically build up our power generation locally. These are the short term plans which we are implementing at the moment so that the people may not suffer the next summer which they suffered this year. We are only making an effort in our short term plan to improve the summer electricity supply situation during the year 2007 but we complete the stability factor and more power generation once our power station will be set up in 2008. By 2007, there will be an increase of 500 MW locally in Karachi. We will certainly be able to supply better electricity next summer and in the year 2008 we will be confidently providing the uninterrupted power supply. Then again in 2009 the KESC will require another 1000 MW either through another power plant or IPPs.

Next year we are building the first power station and then we will build another one and so on. Also the electricity consumption is lower when the power supply is not good and our supply was not good so the lot of people turned to use private generation plants, however, once we make all such arrangements and our electricity will be cheaper than the private generation and we will have a better supply, the people will surely turn towards us so there will be constant jumps in the power demand of the city.

Our eyes are basically set on the year 2015. In the year 2015 we should have enough power as it will help generate and accelerate the economic activity in the city.

PAGE: With the up-gradation of KESC what milestones have you achieved?

FS: We have brought in the stability in the generation and transmission. The first milestone was to bring it to a stable position that we have achieved. The next milestone is related to our work on maintenance and the new generation plant. But we are also concentrating in developing corporate culture and it will be another milestone to achieve that when we make our people cooperative and proud to be a part of this organization. And we have parallel training programs in this regard. We have to reach milestones by building up more power generation plants or cold or nuclear plants to have a stable situation in the city. So the milestones are really clear but at the moment we are concentrating on providing stable and reliable supply to our customers. This is also in our mind that customer orientation and satisfaction is another milestone that we need to achieve.

PAGE: What about the electricity charges that is one of the many concerns of the customers, will it go up also with better supply service or will it sustain?

FS: This is not a free decision of KESC. We have National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) which fixes the tariffs. We can't change it on our will sometimes even if we buy expensive power from IPPs we have to supply to the customers on the same price. As long as NEPRA won't move its decision, the customer is all protected. There is a difference which at the moment is subsidized but we have to look into the long term as to what NEPRA will allow us and how can we apply for the price increase but at the moment we don't feel there is any need in this regard. We even also think about the very poor people who use Kunda for electricity that perhaps we will be able to give them better solution within the price limit but the consumption of electricity contributes to cost and tariff also protects the customers however we can't help the people who are used to consume free electricity.

PAGE: How do you see the role of WAPDA after KESC goes independent in power supply?

FS: WAPDA is like a big brother to us. We have to work together to solve people's problems. We should not rely on their supply as we have to build up our supply as much as possible and they are not able to support us always. We are going slowly separate ways but if possible and they need, we may be able to help them in many ways. We are still dependent on WAPDA for 600MW for the next two years.

PAGE: What is the default situation with the tariff recovery at the moment?

FS: Our default rate is not that bad. Our recovery is about 95%. Out vision is that the more we improve our services and gain customers satisfaction the better will be the payment situation.

PAGE: In order to build up the human resource what training are you giving to your people?

FS: We have a big training program. We also have our training centre which will start working soon. The main focus of training will be on technical and customer services. For better consumer communication we are now bringing out a bi-monthly called 'connection', a copy of which has been published. We are all developing the internal communication and our website. In the field of communication a lot of work is in planning and execution stage. Slowly and gradually when these things will start appearing, people will see the change in KESC as an organization.

PAGE: What hopes would you like to give to the people of Karachi?

FS: We are quite confident and positive that we can overcome this situation as we have good experts, good technology, good engineers and staff but the time factor is our major hindrance. Hope to the people is that we are all set to give them a stable and reliable energy as much as they want and on the other hand they should pay our bills.