Straddling the Indus Valley, Pakistan is endowed with considerable water resources. According to Pakistan’s Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), there is 60,000 MW of hydropower potential in the country, of which only 7,320 MW has been developed.
Pakistan’s untapped hydropower potential largely lies in the mountainous north along the Indus River in the provinces of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as the Jhelum River in the provinces of Punjab and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan is currently amid an energy crisis. Some 51 million Pakistanis lack access to electricity, while a further 90 million suffer from unreliable power supply and load-shedding on a daily basis, which is having a serious impact on the economy.
An over-reliance on imported fuels for thermal generation subject to price fluctuations is at the core of the energy crisis, and the government remains under significant pressure to address an annual average power deficit of 4,000 MW. Hydropower once underpinned the country’s power sector, accounting for 45 per cent of power generation in 1991, but this share has dropped to around 28 per cent, as short-term planning preferred thermal power plants.
However, hydropower is poised for a resurgence and will play a significant role in addressing this power deficit, with some studies estimating the proportion of hydropower in the total electricity generation to increase to more than 40 per cent by 2030.
There is a great emphasis of the present government on the development of hitherto untapped hydropower potential, and to fulfil this ambition, the government has relied heavily on foreign investment from private investors, foreign governments and multilateral development banks.
A number of hydropower plants were completed or commissioned in 2016 including Ranolia (17 MW), Daral Khwar (37 MW) and Machai (2.6 MW), all located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Several micro hydropower projects were also installed as part of an initiative led by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with the support of the Asian Development Bank, to install some 1,000 micro plants. Expected to have a total installed capacity of 100 MW, these micro projects are designed to support rural, off-grid communities by providing affordable and reliable electricity.
Numerous projects are currently under planning and construction in the private sector, overseen by the Private Power & Infrastructure Board, including Karot (720 MW), Suki (870 MW) and Kohala (1,124 MW). These projects are part of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – a collection of infrastructure projects supported by the Chinese Government to strengthen Pakistan’s economy and enhance the economic connectivity between both countries.
The run-of-river Patrind hydropower project is another being led by the private sector, a Korean consortium including Star Hydro Power, K-water and Daewoo Engineering & Construction Company.
Scheduled for completion in 2017, the project has also received loans from the Islamic Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, Asian Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of Korea.
The regulatory regime for private sector investors includes substantial incentives such as generous return on equity, tax concessions and hydrological risk cover.
Current public sector projects under construction and overseen by WAPDA include Golen Gol (106 MW), Neelum-Jhelum (969 MW), Dasu (4,320 MW) and the extension of the Tarbela plant.
The construction on the fourth extension of the 3,478 MW Tarbela hydropower plant located on the Indus River continues, with completion likely in 2017. The Tarbela Dam is the largest earth-filled dam in the world, and the fourth extension to the hydropower plant will lift its installed capacity to 4,888 MW. The World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank have also announced USD 720 million in co-financing to help fund the fifth extension to the plant, which will add a further 1,140 MW in capacity.
This profile was last updated in May 2017.
This country profile is featured in the 2017 Hydropower Status Report. You can download the full report here.