The rise of utility-scale power storage technologies in Pakistan

Monday 19 February 2024

Sahar Iqbal

Akhund Forbes, Karachi


Climate change is a global concern but has particularly affected developing countries in the Global South, including Pakistan. This issue is exacerbated by high levels of carbon emissions worldwide and is further compounded by Pakistan’s recent economic challenges. Consequently, Pakistan is actively exploring alternative renewable energy sources to meet its power needs and demands. While renewable energy generation methods, such as solar, hydropower and wind have their advantages, a significant hurdle lies in storing the power generated from these sources for times when environmental conditions hinder generation.

The significance of power storage technologies in Pakistan

Pakistan is highly vulnerable to climate risks, ranking eighth in the Global Climate Risk Index as of 2021. Extreme weather events such as the 2022 floods have rocked the country, exacerbating its ongoing economic and political crises. A significant challenge faced by the country has been of power outages and a deficit of electricity. During the 2022 floods, various parts of the country faced blackouts adversely affecting daily lives and economic growth. In addition to climate-change challenges, the rising price of commodities, including crude oil and other fossil fuels significantly affects the affordability of electricity, warranting an imperative shift towards renewable technologies on a larger scale for which utility scale power storage technologies are essential.

Lithium-ion power storage technologies in Pakistan

Power storage technologies include: pumped hydro storage; compressed air storage energy (CASE); flywheel energy storage (FWES); lithium-ion batteries; lead-acid battery systems (LABS); flow battery systems (FBS); high-temperature battery systems (HTBS); and hydrogen storage. Each has unique technicalities. Currently, Pakistan, like most of the world, is primarily using lithium-ion batteries for bulk power storage.

Under its Strategy 2030, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) aims to mainstream the use of such technologies by carrying out pilot testing in addition to mobilising subject experts and focusing on quality, efficient designs and sustainability.

The High-Level Technology Fund was established by the ADB in 2017 as a multi-donor trust fund granting financing to encourage more widespread adoption of high-level technologies to address development challenges in member countries. Under the MFF Power Transmission Enhancement Investment Program II Tranche 3, the ADB has commenced a project in Pakistan which centres on the deployment of a modular lithium-ion battery energy storage system (BESS), which can be conveniently housed in standard shipping containers. The lithium-ion BESS provides a quick sub-second response time for regulating power, rendering it crucial for grid-balancing efforts. Additionally, it enhances grid flexibility, particularly in the integration of renewable energy sources, allowing for more secure renewable power connections to the grid and reducing forecast errors, which minimises the need for power cuts (commonly known as ‘load shedding’) and network reinforcements, resulting in smoother operations.

In this project, the National Transmission and Dispatch Corporation Limited of Pakistan (NTDC) will use these batteries to respond swiftly to power supply fluctuations, preventing automatic under-frequency load shedding and integrating wind power generation into the national grid.

Significantly, the NTDC-Jhimpir Battery Energy Storage System is a 20,000kW energy storage project located in Jhimpir, Thatta district, Sindh, Pakistan. The BESS project is a part of MFF Power Transmission Enhancement Investment Program II Tranche 3, located at 220KV Jhimpir-1 Substation owned by NTDC. This pilot project will use wind power to help the NTDC comply with frequency requirements in the existing grid and supplement the functions of the supervisory-control and data-acquisition system being upgraded under Tranche 2. This project is fully owned by NTDC and is being funded by the ADB.

The legislative and policy environment

The relevant government entities in Pakistan’s electricity sector include the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) which is responsible for issuing power-related licences under the NEPRA Act, 1997, setting safety standards and defining electricity prices. The Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) issues permits to independent power producers and is involved in planning and construction. The NTDC operates the national power grid.

Pakistan’s Renewable Energy Policy 2006, which expired in 2018, aimed at promoting renewable energy development. The Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy, 2019 which replaced the 2006 policy, set targets for on-grid renewable energy capacity, significantly mandating legislative provisions and incentives for utility-scale power storage technologies. Similarly, the National Power Policy, 2021, focuses on expanding power generation capacities to overcome supply issues but does not refer to utility-scale power storage technologies. According to the Pakistan’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) Policy, 2021, the country aims to generate 60 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. With funding from the World Bank, USAid and the ADB in Pakistan’s renewable energy sector, the environment is conducive for foreign firms to invest in power storage technologies in Pakistan.


Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate risks, in tandem with economic and energy supply challenges, prepares the perfect storm for a crisis with potentially adverse consequences, which underline the importance of utility-scale power storage technologies. The involvement of the ADB in promoting utility scale power-storage technologies in Pakistan is noteworthy and will enhance the renewable energy landscape in Pakistan, therefore promoting a conducive environment for new technologies in this sector.