It is for the first time that the federal government is paying special attention to the province by allocating huge funds for undertaking various new projects and schemes.

Mar 19 - 25, 2007

Currently, Balochistan is focusing to develop its infrastructure and other sectors. For the first time, the federal government is paying special attention to the province by allocating hundreds of billions of rupees this year for undertaking various new projects and schemes, in addition to the on-going mega projects.

In this context, the power sub-sector is no exception. President General Musharraf has recently announced to set up two new power plants, each of 300 MW capacity, in the province on fast-track basis. Recently, Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) has signed an agreement to import additional electricity from Iran. Moreover, WAPDA has been asked to develop a power project of 100 MW capacity. Likewise, Quetta Electric Supply Company (QESCO), an entity of WAPDA, has planned to expand and strengthen electricity transmission and distribution systems. Electrification of another 15,000 villages will be completed by the next year.

Balochistan, which is recognized for its strategic geographical importance, remains the most under-developed province of Pakistan to-date. Though rich in energy and other natural resources, only a minority of the total population of 7.58 million has access to electricity due to lack of necessary infrastructure network. Today, there are only 406,000 electricity consumers in Balochistan, resulting in the lowest per capita power consumption, which is almost half of the average national power consumption per person.

Pakistan has total installed power generation capacity of 20,456 MW, of which 13,530 MW pertains to thermal power generation. Out of this, Balochistan's share is 2,195 MW installed power generation capacity - all thermal power - that produces 7,476 million kWh electricity. This, though a significant number, unfortunately does not reflect the true picture. The bulk power supply is in fact dispersed to trunk transmission network for utilization by other provinces, since more than half of the Balochistan population is still not connected to the national grid.

Tracing the history of power generation in Balochistan, it is observed that since the creation of Pakistan and until 1960, there existed not a single power plant in the area. It was only during 1961-1980 period that an installed capacity to generate 48 MW electricity was created. WAPDA had established a coal-based steam power plant in 1964 and in subsequent years four gas turbine power stations were installed. Another gas turbine of 35 MW capacity was added to the system in 1984. All these power plants, of cumulative capacity of 83 MW, have since then retired and are no more in operation.

Implementation of Power Policy-1994 resulted in the development of mega power projects in the province by the private sector. The Hub Power Company's (HUBCO's) power plant of 1,292 MW capacity was commissioned at Hub (Lasbela) in 1997, which is based on oil-fired steam turbine technology. Uch Power of 586 MW at Dera Murad Jamali (Nasirabad) was commissioned in 2000 whereas a 140-MW plant at Quetta, under the name of Habibullah Coastal Power, was commissioned in 1999, both based on gas turbine combined cycle technology. To meet its power demand QESCO purchases a total of 380 MW from Uch Power and WAPDA's Guddu power station.

Current power demand of the province is 474 MW. This is partially met by new power plants installed by WAPDA. These operational power plants include a 35-MW gas turbine power plant in Quetta, which is connected to the national grid, and two steam-based power plants at Pasni (17 MW) and Panjgoor (38 MW). The latter two power stations are stand-alone units connected to isolated systems, operating presently at 70% plant availability (capability), which cater to the needs of remote areas of Pasni, Panjgoor and surrounding areas. In addition, there is a number of captive power plants, of cumulative installed capacity of 97 MW, to meet their own industrial requirements.

Power consumption in the province is increasing rapidly, by an average 17% annually. The electricity consumption rose from 1,123 million kWh in 1990-91 to 3,582 million kWh in 2004-05 and the number of consumers increased from 171,000 in 1990-91 to the present level of 406,000, which includes 3,000 industrial consumers. However, this figure remains just six percent of the total power consumption at national level.

Due to constraints of adequate infrastructure for power transmission and distribution, the province is unable to avail the bulk of the generated power. Nation-wide the WAPDA system has transmission lines of 46,062 circuit-kilometer in total, whereas only 10% of these lines fall in Balochistan. There is no 500-kV transmission line laid in the province. However, there exist 220 kV (758 circuit-km), 132 kV (3,558 circuit-km) and 66 kV (293 circuit-km) transmission lines. WAPDA has recently linked Gwadar with Pasni power station through high-tension transmission line, whereas the Sixth Secondary Transmission and Grids project is nearing completion at an estimated cost of Rs 6.6 billion.

Likewise, in-service grid stations in WAPDA system are only 57 in number in Balochistan, of 220 kV, 132 kV and 66 kV, with a cumulative capacity of 2,017 MVA (Mega-Volt Ampere). QESCO distribution system consists of 12,866 km HT (high-tension, 11 kV) and 6,973 km LT (low-tension, 440/220 V) lines. These line-lengths are in sharp contrast to national level of 201,391-km HT and 137,831-km LT lines, reflecting the extent of neglect to the vast and strategic area. Nevertheless, some improvements have been made in the network in recent years. For example, a new grid station has been constructed at Gwadar industrial estate, while the Second Rural Electrification Project is being implemented under Kuwait Fund.

Recently the government had invited private sector for developing an Independent Power Project having 60 MW to 100 MW capacity thermal power generation, on Build, Own and Operate (BOO) basis. Due to lack of interest shown by the investors, now WAPDA will establish the power plant. The project, which will use Residual Fuel Oil (RFO) and reciprocating engine technology, is proposed to be located in Khuzdar, scheduled for commissioning by end-September 2008. The power plant will be inter-connected with the existing 132 kV double-circuit Khuzdar-Baghbana transmission line.

Khuzdar is an important district of Balochistan, with a population of over 525,000. There is an urgent need to provide electricity to the area to give a fillip to trade and commerce and therefore the initiative to establish the proposed project is considered proverbial - a step in the right direction. The government, however, should look into improving the security situation prevalent in the region more seriously, in order to implement successfully the power project as well as other development schemes.

To meet the projected demand of 1,964 MW in Balochistan by the year 2024, which may even surpass the estimates given the present economic and industrial plans, it is imperative to develop and use its vast resources of coal for power generation. Oil-fired thermal power generation is not a realistic and economic option for many reasons, particularly for the region that has coal resource potential of 194 million tons with measured reserves of over 52 million tons. WAPDA had installed a coal-based power plant, consisting of two units of 7.5 MW each, at Sheikhmanda near Quetta in early sixties and operated it successfully for more than 20 years of its lifetime. At present there is not a single coal-fired power plant in Balochistan worth mentioning. The province is enriched with wind and solar energy resources too that remain untapped for power generation and electrification.