Dec 12 - 18, 20

With a view to overcoming electricity shortage, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led Punjab government has planned to initiate power projects having capacity of 500 megawatt with the collaboration of private sector during fiscal 2011-12.

Official sources told Pakistan and gulf economist (Page) that accelerated development of energy resources is one of top priorities of the provincial government as it considers the ever-mounting electricity shortages are major bottleneck impeding growth of the provincial economy.

For the last few years, energy sector in the country is facing the crises of rising prices, sub-optimal performance, and slow expansion resulting in widened supply and demand gaps.

With stagnated development of large-scale hydropower projects since 1980's, the once benign hydro/thermal power generation ratio of 67:33 has been reversed to the economically unaffordable ratio of 35:65.

Nationwide power demand is outstripping supply and there is an imperative need to focus on efforts to increase the share of hydropower and alternate renewable energy in the overall energy mix in order to balance the unabated adverse impacts of expanding energy shortages, the sources added.

Sources in Punjab government said previous studies have identified over 300 sites on canal falls and barrages in Punjab having potential of power development of about 600 MW.

Out of these 48 preferred sites with generation potential exceeding two megawatt, each site possesses an overall power producing capacity of about 350MW.

Under the major MTDF (2011-2014) initiatives for energy security, ADB-assisted renewable energy development sector investment program envisages Rs11.9 billion investment on construction of five hydropower projects at Marala (Sialkot), Chianwali (Gujranwala), Deg outfall (Sheikhupura), Pakpattan and Okara with an overall capacity of 25 MW generating 160 GWh per annum, feasibility studies for prospective development of additional five hydropower projects in Punjab, and capacity development of energy/power sector in the province.

These sources claimed that against 48 hydro sites announced by PPDB, response was received for 10 sites. LOIs to the successful sponsors were issued in 2007 and nine feasibility studies completed in 2009. Upon determination of a viable tariff and its approval by Nepra, letter of support (LOS) has been issued by PPDB for two small-scale hydropower projects over raw sites whereas feasibility study for two solicited sites is under revision.

According to them, the agreement of mega project of producing 120MW electricity at Taunsa Barrage during the recent visit of Chief Minister Punjab to People's Republic of China is a great step to use indigenous resources.

Keeping in view the energy vision of Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, the Punjab government has allocated a sum of nine billion rupees for energy projects during the fiscal 2011-12.

An amount of Rs1.36 billion have been earmarked for solar tube-wells so that rural economy could be saved from the curse of energy shortage. A full-fledge energy department has been formed in Punjab to expedite work on power related projects.

The department of energy is working on the projects of power generation from alternative sources including hydel, solar, coal and bagasse.

The sources further said that there are coal reserve of 186.560 billion tons in Sindh, 235 million tons in Punjab, 217 million tons in Balochistan, 90 million tons in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and nine million tonnes in Azad Kashmir.

The need of the hour is to exploit the potential of coal reserves to overcome power shortages, experts claimed.

The sources also said that 700 to 1000 MW electricity can be generated from bagasse in 45 sugar mills of Punjab and a strategy in consultation with sugar mills has been finalized by the government.

The chief minister has already asked the authorities concerned that the project of generation of power from bagasse should be implemented speedily and a transparent policy should be adopted for this purpose.

Punjab government and representatives of sugar mills associations have finalized recommendations regarding tariff of the power generated from bagasse.

He said that there is a vast scope of setting up hydropower projects in Punjab and an agreement has also been signed with a Chinese company for generation of hydropower from Taunsa.

Small hydel power projects will soon be started at Pakpattan and Marala with the cooperation of Asian Development Bank (ADB) while work is also being started for power generation from biogas.

The Punjab government has also planned to implement the projects of power generation from coal public-private partnership.

Critics believe that load shedding of gas is badly affecting the people, as due to shutdown of industrial units a large number of laborers lost jobs. The federal government has not taken any concrete steps for the solution of looming energy crisis.