ELECTRICITY GENERATION OPTIONS

Pakistan needs to look at energy generation options and for this coal is one of the most suitable options to overcome the growing electricity demand in the country.

KHALIL AHMED, Senior Correspondent
Feb 26 - Mar 04, 2007

Pakistan has been advised by the World Bank regarding the exploration of new options for generating additional electricity. It has also been acknowledged widely that the economy of Pakistan is performing well and this has led to the rising demand of energy, including electricity, which seems to be one of the problems these days both for domestic and industrial consumers. The shortfall of electricity has led to some decisions which may not prove healthy for the economy. One of such decisions last year was the closure of shops in Karachi after 8 pm which was unwelcome by the business community.

It was disclosed that from June 9 to June 24 last year, 40 per cent markets in Karachi had lost Rs 2 to 3 billion in terms of turnover because of 50 per cent decline in their sales owing to early closure of shops. Due to the early closure of shops 70-90 MW electricity was saved during the period which helped in tackling the issue of breakdowns, a report said. It is to be seen here that what is more important for the economy; saving the electricity for some reasons or the loss of business. Undoubtedly, the problem of supply and demand is the major issue here which needs to be tackled through the exploration of more options for the electricity generation.

It is being assumed these days that due to energy shortfall, option of one more weekly holiday is being considered---not a welcoming sign for the economy which has performed extremely well over the period of last few years. The consumption of electricity is generally regarded as an index of economic prosperity of a country. And this is the case with us as well. Today Pakistan is one of the most favorite destinations for the foreign investors.

Critics believe that the cost of doing business in our country is comparatively very high and because of this many potential investors are shying away. It is said that power rates are high coupled with the frequent electricity breakdowns which add to the miseries of the industrialists. The authorities need to look at the option of providing inexpensive and timely infrastructure facilities such as land, electricity, gas, etc. to the local and foreign investors. Last year in March it was announced that "the government has finalized a plan to set up 45 thermal, hydel and coal-run power stations over the next six years to generate about 11,900 MW electricity". It was proclaimed that these projects will attract $11.2 billion investment"

Let's look at the options for generating additional electricity. Oil and gas prices have skyrocketed over the period of last five years which has become the major reason for finding other options for the generation of electricity across the world. Electricity is being generated by oil, gas, wind, nuclear, coal, water and even through rocks which is known as geothermal energy. Electricity generation these days calls for two things: economic viability and environmental protection. Generating electricity by oil and gas undoubtedly has become a very expensive proposition at present. This gives reasons to generate electricity through other means available within the borders of a country. A report reads that in Pakistan, out of the total installed capacity, 6,599MW power is being generated through hydel stations and 12,335MW through thermal power stations, while the remaining 612MW comes through various nuclear and coal-powered stations.

Pakistan paid over $6 billion for the annual oil import bill last year which is of course not a good sign for the economy.

Official sources do say that there is no shortfall of electricity in our country and 17,000 villages will be provided electricity in the near future. However, the masses face breakdowns for which the various reasons of internal problems are quoted. It is being said that internal problems like cable and transformers" faults, grid problems and line-tripping are the reasons which hamper the services and are the causes of interrupted power supply. It has been accepted that there is the need to improve the overall power transmission system and that the existing power system is aging which is one of the reasons for the frequent power breakdowns. The concerned authorities have announced that the power sector is currently undergoing reforms and restructuring and necessary groundwork has been done with the support of Asian Development Bank. Recently, ADB has decided to invest $3 billion in the next three years in Pakistan for the improvement of power transmission and distribution system. This decision made by the ADB would help our country in terms of launching alternative energy projects such as wind power, solar energy, coal-based generation and hydel power.

Pakistan has vast coal resources which are yet to be untapped and used for energy generation. The question is: would it be viable for Pakistan to use coal for the generation of electricity to bridge the gap in the years ahead? Coal-fired power units contribute less than three per cent to the total energy produced in Pakistan at present whereas coal accounts for approximately 40 per cent of the world's electricity. It must be known that energy produced by coal is not environment-friendly.

Pakistan needs to look at energy production options and for this coal is one of the most suitable options to overcome the growing demand in the country. It is an old story and almost everyone knows that Pakistan has coal reserves of more than 186 billion tons. Sindh being the major contributor with over 184 billion tons to generate thousands of megawatt electricity through coal-based thermal power plants but until recently this option has not been taken seriously for unknown reasons.

A couple of years ago the President had said that the government would strive to make best use of indigenous energy resources like Thar coal reserves to fuel its fast-expanding economy in a cost-effective way. And just a few months earlier the government decided to develop the Thar coal for power generation. However, it is said that coal mining in Thar requires a phased investment of $4 billion. It is to be seen how this investment is attracted and how much more time does our country need to exploit its own rich coal resources. It has been known recently that the government has approved Rs250 million as initial paid-up capital for the Thar Coal Mining Company.

Another option for electricity generation is that of the Sun. Though the solar energy is not common in the world, yet it is being thought and to some extent it is being used in the UK to run ferries, to charge mobile sets, to run a miniature railway and to play musical instruments. It is a good idea to use deserts to get solar energy. Pakistan has got this option, however, it is an expensive proposition. Thar is a good option for the solar energy generation and at present, solar energy is being produced in some areas of Sindh. Under the Punjab Power Generation Policy, the possibilities of energy generation from thermal, solar and other sources are also being explored. In the past, plenty of money was spent on the generation of solar energy, however, nothing came of it but this should not discourage us from looking for this option. India has experimented and is producing and using solar electricity in some of its villages.

Pakistan's electricity production through nuclear plants is negligible. However, it is expected that with the help of China, nuclear electricity would help meet the demand of electricity. Wind is a renewable energy resource and it involves no fuel costs, however, it is thought as an expensive type of energy in our country. Thatta and the coastal areas of Pakistan are extremely suitable for the generation of wind electricity in Pakistan. One of the disadvantages of wind energy is that wind farms are noisy and may spoil the view for people living near them. Hydroelectric power is one of the best sources of electricity production. It is said that water power is a renewable energy resource and no harmful polluting gases are produced. Pakistan needs to construct big dams to produce electricity through this means. Geothermal energy is a kind of source for the electricity production. It is said that electricity can be produced through hot rocks. Pakistan is blessed with rocky regions and particularly the Northern Areas could be thought as best source for such kind of power generation. It must be known that geothermal power station exists in places such as Iceland, California and Italy.

Before conclusion, let's look at the comparative analysis of power generation. According to a report, power stations fuelled by fossil fuels or nuclear fuels are reliable sources of energy. This means they can provide power whenever it is needed. However, their start-up times vary according to the type of fuel used.

Nuclear power station long start-up time
Coal-fired power station
Oil-fired power station
Gas-fired power station short start-up time

Nuclear power stations and coal-fired power stations usually provide 'base-load' electricity - they are run all the time because they take the longest time to start up. Oil-fired and gas-fired power stations are often used to provide extra electricity at peak times, because they take the least time to start up. The fuel for nuclear power stations is relatively cheap, but the power stations themselves are expensive to build. It is also very expensive to dismantle old nuclear power stations and to dispose their radioactive waste, which poses a dangerous health hazard. Renewable resources of fuel do not cost anything, but the equipment used to generate the power may be expensive to build. Certain resources are reliable, including tidal barrages and hydroelectric power. Others are less reliable, including wind and solar energy.

Looking at the above facts, we need to see what is the best option for the generation of electricity in our country? It could be concluded that despite being environmentally unfriendly, coal-based power plants if set up with foreign investment could solve our problems in future and this could be one of the most inexpensive types of electricity sources in Pakistan. This option if applied with prudent strategies could help Pakistan generate revenue by exporting electricity in future which seems a dream in the present scenario.

COMMISIONED IPPs:

S.NO

PROJECT NAME

GROSS CAPACITY (MW)

1

AES Lalpir Limited

362

2

AES Pak Gen. (Pvt.) Limited

365

3

Altern Energy Limited

14

4

Fauji Kabirwala Power Company

157

5

Gul Ahmed Energy Ltd. (GAEL)

136.17

6

Habibullah Coastal Power (Pvt.) Co.

140

7

Japan Power Generation (Pvt.) Limited

120

8

Kohinoor Energy Limited

131.44

9

Liberty Power Project

235

10

Rousch (Pakistan) Power Limited

412

11

Saba Power Company Limited

114

12

Southern Electric Power Company Limited

115.2

13

Tapal Energy Limited

126

14

Uch Power Limited

586

15

Hub Power Project

1292

The IPPs at serial numbers 1 to 14 came under the 1994 power policy. In addition to these, the 1292 MW Hub Power Project was under process before the 1994 Policy and was commissioned in March 1997.
The IPPs at serial number 5 & 13 are supplying power to KESC while the remaining 12 IPPs and Hubco are supplying power to WAPDA
SOURCES: PPIB