Courtesy: South Asia Investor Review
Pakistan and Germany have initiated serious discussions of German funding of eight ongoing and new hydropower projects worth billions of dollars. These talks are taking place in Islamabad between visiting German Minister for Economic Co-operation and Development Ms. Heidemaire Wiegoreak Zeul and Pakistani Prime Minister’s Adviser on Finance Mr. Shaukat Tarin, according Business Recorder newspaper.
The projects currently under discussion include 621 MW Palas hydropower project, 567 MW Spat Gah hydropower project, 28 MW Basho hydropower project, 33 MW Harpo hydropower project, 70 MW Lawi hydropower project, Naigaj hydropower project and 300 KW Hingol hydropower project, 43 KW Kurram Tangi Dam. As a start, the German Economic Minister said her country had already committed finances for Keyal Khwar hydropower project located in NWFP on river Indus at Dasu. The project would generate 130 MW power. The focus of many of these development projects are the rural areas in the North West Frontier Province and the least developed federally administered tribal areas of the country affected by insurgencies.
Ms. Heidemaire Wiegoreak Zeul said that Germany was part of Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) and she had come here for the assessment of the situation and development needs to be discussed at Tokyo in April 17 and then again at the end of April during the annual meeting of the World Bank and IMF. She added that this support was important for Pakistan’s development to stabilize the country and the region.
In addition to megaprojects such as 1000 MW Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project, a number of community-based micro hydro projects are being executed with the help of the Agha Khan Foundation in Pakistan’s Northern Areas and NWFP. Within this region, out of a total of 137 micro-hydro plants, the AKRSP has established 28 micro-hydros with an installed capacity of 619kW. Initially, in 1986, these plants started as research and demonstration units. These projects were extended to Village Organizations (VOs) and became participatory projects. A Village Organization (VO) is a body of villagers who have organized themselves around a common interest.
After formation, each village organization signed a partnership with AKRSP to abide by all terms and conditions necessary for the village development. The entire responsibility of implementation was passed on to the VOs. AKRSP provided the negotiated cost of the plants and technical input required during the construction period. All the VOs completed the civil work of the plants. They purchased and transported machinery from other parts of Pakistan. The VO members provided subsidized or free unskilled labour and locally produced building material.
Pakistan’s current installed capacity is around 19,845 MW, of which around 20% is hydroelectric. Much of the rest is thermal, fueled primarily by gas and oil. Per capita energy consumption of the country is estimated at 14 million Btu, which is about the same as India’s but only a fraction of other industrializing economies in the region such as Thailand and Malaysia, according to the US Dept of Energy 2006 report. To put it in perspective, the world average per capita energy use is about 65 million BTUs and the average American consumes 352 million BTUs.
The electric power situation in India is not much better. The country is suffering its worst electricity crisis and it has become a key election issue in states like Karnataka and Maharashtra. Some major cities in India are facing alarming situations; continuous load shedding in Bangalore has led to diesel shortage as people are using diesel generators to deal with the crisis. Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Haryana are the worst hit by the ongoing crisis and they are facing power gaps of about 5,000MW, 1,000MW, 2000MW, 1,500MW respectively. In Maharashtra, state officials are asking industrial consumers to lower their demand by 10% or be ready to face forced load shedding (rolling blackouts). Cities and towns are facing 7 to 13 hours blackouts.
With 40% of the Pakistani households that have yet to receive electricity, and only 18% of the households that have access to pipeline gas, the energy sector is expected to play a critical role in economic and social development. With this growth comes higher energy consumption and stronger pressures on the country’s energy resources. At present, natural gas and oil supply the bulk (80 percent) of Pakistan’s energy needs. However, the consumption of those energy sources vastly exceeds the supply. For instance, Pakistan currently produces only 18.3 percent of the oil it consumes, fostering a dependency on expensive, imported oil that places considerable strain on the country’s financial position, creating growing budget and trade deficits. On the other hand, renewable energyfrom hydro, wind and solar are perhaps underutilized and underdeveloped today, as Pakistan has ample potential to exploit these resources.
Pakistan has vast reserves of coal. But there is very little energy produced by burning coal. China has now agreed to invest about $600 million for setting up an integrated coal mining-cum-power project in Sindh. The project will produce 180 million tons of coal per year, which is sufficient to fuel the proposed 405 MW power plant. Pakistan is currently world’s seventh largest coal-producing country, with coal reserves of more than 185 billion tons (second in the world after U.S.A.’s 247 billion tons). Almost all (99 percent) of Pakistan’s coal reserves are found in the province of Sindh. Pakistan’s largest coal field is Thar coal field which is spread over an area of 9100 square kilometers, and contains 175 billion tons of coal. So far this coal field has not been developed but efforts are underway.
In addition to the coal project, China has agreed to build several other power plants in Pakistan to help the South Asian nation deal with its worsening electricity crisis. When completed over the next several years, these plants, including Nandipur (425 MW, Thermal), Guddu(800 MW, Thermal) and Neelam-Jhelum(1000 MW, Hydro), Chashma (1200 MW, Nuclear) will add more than 3000 MW of power generating capacity for the energy-hungry country. Pakistan is currently facing a deficit of 4,000 to 5,000 megawatts, resulting in extensive load-shedding (rolling blackouts) of several hours a day.
China has already installed a 325-megawatt nuclear power plant (C1) at Chashma and is currently working on another (C2) of the same capacity that is expected to be online by 2010. The agreements for C3 and C4 have also been signed. The United States has objected to China supplying C3 and C4 on the grounds that any Pak-China nuclear cooperation would require consensus approval by the NSG, of which China is now a member, for any exception to the guidelines. The US is applying double standards since it supported and got approval for such an exception from NSG for its own nuclear deal with India.
Beyond the power generation capacity expansion projects, Pakistan must also pay attention to modernizing its national grid. The country’s creaky and outdated electricity infrastructure loses over 30 percent of generated power in transit, more than seven times the losses of a well-run system, according to the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank; and a lack of spare high-voltage grid capacity limits the transmission of power from hydroelectric plants in the north to make up for shortfalls in the south.
The current power crisis has given a significant impetus for serious efforts to develop a series of power projects. While such projects take a long time to complete, the fact that they are being undertaken makes it likely that Pakistan will eventually overcome the painful power shortages. In rural areas in particular, Pakistan has a better chance of meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals by building infrastructure projects and providing energy and water for development.