“People and their managers work so hard to make sure things are done right that they barely have time to decide if they are doing the right things.” Stephen Covey’s statement above fits perfectly with the ongoing back-and-forth between NTDC, NEPRA and the government on the Draft Indicative Production Capacity Expansion Plan (IGCEP). Amidst heated arguments over which projects should be included in the Plan, our decision makers have completely missed the fact that the very foundation, “centralized least cost planning” upon which this Plan is based, has become obsolete. .

The days of strategic planning in the power sector are long gone. As the industry undergoes an unprecedented transformation, sparked by disruptive forces induced by technology over the past decade, almost every aspect of this century-old and most stable company has come under fire – the physical infrastructure, the institutional setup. , economic model, regulatory framework, pricing approaches, performance monitoring, etc. A new approach appears to be sinking into the boards of power companies who, unlike the history of the industry, now have to focus on the end of its value chain, consumers, if they want to. that their activities remain profitable.

The infrastructure industries, considered the exclusive domain of the state because of their natural monopoly and their public service character, could not remain immune from the market forces which unleashed themselves in the 1980s. first to fall were public transport, then the airline industry and later the telephone industry. Electric utilities, seen as the last bastion of these industries, have resisted any major change except guided competition here and some choice there. But, with the advent of smaller generators whose cost and performance characteristics surpass those of their larger competitors, these utilities have not been able to survive the onslaught of the market either. The fatal blow to this giant, however, was dealt by the advent of small, modular and competitive renewable energy generation technologies.

The industry is undoubtedly at a crossroads. Some other developments, including the growing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs), EV-driven demand for compact and affordable battery storage, and smart grid technologies, have shaken the very foundations of this industry. The question is not whether to change or not, because there are not two opinions among the leaders of the public services on this subject. The real problem is how to handle change and to what extent, because some of them, due to the comforts of old routines, are still reluctant to make radical change even though the world around their industry has shifted.

But they have to change because it is inevitable, and the sooner they do, the better. Planning and planners play a central role in facilitating the required transformation. From its traditional role of providing business solutions to executive leadership that are robust to a set of predictable future scenarios, planners are now called upon to help key leaders think strategically and devise strategies to redefine and realign their business. position in a market which continues to be ruled by unforeseeable surprises. In this new world, agility and flexibility to adapt to changing markets are the new rules of the game.

As the old saying goes, “There is no right way to do the wrong thing.” Our leaders must effect the suggested transformation because it is inevitable and the nation can no longer afford to delay it. The suggested changes will be difficult and take time and resources, but their benefits to the nation would be enormous in terms of avoiding unnecessary production and T&D assets that are capital intensive and heavily dependent on imports.

Traditional approaches to power sector planning, including “least cost planning”, “integrated resource planning”, “portfolio planning” and, more recently, “value-based planning” are all vestiges of a time when electric utilities were considered among the most stable and least risky industries for investment as there were economies of scale in generation and transmission, there was no competition, consumers had no choice of suppliers and a good return on investment was guaranteed by regulators.

Traditional planning in its various forms essentially consisted of aggregating expected consumer demand in the utility’s control area and responding to it through a low-cost sequence of generation, transmission and distribution (T&D) capacity additions. . These approaches have lost their raison d’être. A business-as-usual approach essentially boils down to locking the country into capital-intensive, long-lasting, import-dependent and environmentally unfriendly infrastructure which, if in place, will be difficult to change, let alone set back. .

In the above context, the issuance of IGCEP-type plans by our government is therefore disconcerting, to put it mildly. It clearly shows that our government and the entities of the electricity sector are still stuck in the traditional approach of managing this sector through large power plant production facilities. In this author’s opinion, much of the future investment should instead go to increasing and strengthening T&D systems and institutional capacity building instead of expanding central station production and monitoring systems. related transmission.

The government and NEPRA will need to seriously review their current approach to power sector planning and development. The central focus of government over the next five to ten years should be distribution systems, as this will be the front where most of the action takes place. Enabling regulations, visionary leadership, dynamic and wise management, smart and smart grids and imaginative, creative and innovative service sets will all be needed to deliver electricity to customers (yes, you read that right, more than ” captive and helpless consumers ””) to win them back and keep them on par with the grid. System planners have a special role to play in the future, as we will see in more detail below.

Planning should start on the consumer side, identifying their needs for energy services, such as space conditioning, lighting, cooking, food preservation, mobility, etc. After identifying these needs at the individual and community level, planners should consider the scope of electricity to meet these needs, at the source, through a nearby distributed power plant, or from the main utility grid, depending on the most feasible solution.

Reaping the enormous potential of shifting the focus of planning and development to the distribution level, however, will not be easy. This will require strong political will and commitment on the part of the government and some systemic overhaul of the existing institutional structure. Most planning tools, institutional capacities and funding modalities have evolved around broad schemes focused on supplying central stations and based on conventional technologies. As such, these deeply ingrained practices will be difficult to disentangle and replace with new thinking and approach.

Much of the system’s planning function will also need to shift from its current central location – under the NTDC – to DISCO as these entities are much closer to customers and can thus better plan the demand and supplies required in their jurisdictions. In a sense, DISCOs will plan mini-grids which will be designed to operate largely as stand-alone systems, but which will be linked to the NTDC national grid to help each other improve the functioning of the national grid.

The existing planning capacity within DISCOs will require considerable strengthening and re-equipping to enable them to fulfill their new and improved roles. The planning function at NTDC will still be necessary, but its purpose and role will have to change. Instead of being the sole planner of the electricity sector, he will have to act as a coordinator and facilitator by linking the mini-grids under the DISCOs.

As the old saying goes, “There is no right way to do the wrong thing.” Our leaders must effect the suggested transformation because it is inevitable and the nation can no longer afford to delay it. The suggested changes will be difficult and take time and resources, but their benefits to the nation would be enormous in terms of avoiding unnecessary production and T&D assets that are capital intensive and heavily dependent on imports.


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