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Electricity import – an option worth no consideration

Out of 7.5 billion population of the entire world, around one billion people lack access to electricity across the world. There are huge energy crisis in some emerging economies such as India where denizens suffer up to 12 hours of load-shedding every day in some parts of the country. Pakistan is no exception in terms of energy crisis.

With ever-increasing import bill, Pakistan hitherto thinks of import of electricity. Right decisions and the wrong decisions? But Food for thought. Almost all decisions made hence have proved awry, which have led the economy to the verge of collapse. Pakistan’s import bill has shaken the entire economy leading to an unprecedented $37 billion trade deficit and $18 billion current account deficit and has compelled the authorities to look towards the lenders for bailout. This bailout may come either from China or IMF; yet to be seen when the PTI-led government is formed.

It is surprising for all and sundry that Pakistan blessed with wind corridor and abundant sunlight has been importing electricity from Iran and is intending to import electricity from India, China, Tajik and Kyrgyz republics to meet its shortfall. Import of electricity requires investment of millions of dollars and transmission lines of hundreds of kilometres with the time line of years not months which indicates that the same time and the investment could be utilized for indigenous generation rather than looking elsewhere. Lack of far-sighted decisions and priority have led us to the blind alley, to be precise. Why don’t the authorities look around and if they look around, why don’t they exploit the opportunities? Reasons unknown…

The sun shines throughout the year in all four provinces of Pakistan and Sindh alone has a wind power generation potential of more than 35,000MW whereas the total requirement of electricity for the entire country is less than 22,000MW even in peak season of summer. The parliament in Islamabad has been generating solar energy for last couple of years and faces no load-shedding whereas long hours of load-shedding add to the misery of the industry and the masses alike.

The citizens of Pakistan even in small cities are exploiting the potential to get rid of load-shedding on their own. Even in Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Tharparkar, Sindh, residents are using solar panels profusely, which are cost effective and help them cope with load-shedding issues whereas the government has failed to exploit the same resource. Lots of critics say that 100MW Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Plant in Bahawalpur is producing too little and too expensive electricity. A question mark?

 

Pakistan being a nuclear power produces just 5 percent electricity through nuclear resources at a cost of 93 paisa per unit. Sindh has a total of 38 sugar mills which indicates that there should not be load-shedding in the rural areas of Sindh since sugar mills produce electricity and contribute it to the national grid. Sindh and South Punjab face load-shedding despite the electricity produced in these areas by the sugar mills. Aggregate production by the sugar mills across Pakistan is around one percent, of the total electricity produced, at around Rs6 per unit.

Pakistan has a potential to generate over two million MW electricity per annum through solar but to no avail so far. YES, our focus is on importing electricity from lots of countries.

Numerous countries across the world including the USA, China, Japan, Germany, UK, Brazil, India etc. are now generating solar electricity.

Pakistan used to import 39MW of electricity from Iran at five cents per unit two decades ago. In 2010, Iran sought increase in tariff from 5 to 9.5 cents per unit whereas Pakistan felt comfortable at 8 cents per unit. Import of electricity from Iran doubled to 70MW in 2012 to meet the requirement of Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgore, Mand etc. Further, negotiations were carried out to import 1000MW leading to 3000MW in the days to come.

There were serious discussions from 2012 to 2015 regarding the import of 4,000MW electricity from India but to no avail. Pakistan did plan to import around 1,300MW from the Tajik and Kyrgyz republics. Import of electricity from China is also on the cards.

It must be noted that import of electricity is costlier as compared to electricity generation by sugar mills, nuclear technology, wind and solar resources. Now, it is to be decided by the relevant authorities to decide whether to go for the indigenous or import the electricity and exacerbate the crumbling economy.

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