POWER SHORTAGE ASSUMES ALARMING PROPORTIONS
The power shortage that was estimated to remain in the range of 1000 to 1500 MW during the current year is likely to cross 3000 MW next year and is likely to increase by about 5500 MW by 2010.
FROM: SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
Jan 15 - 21, 2007
As was feared the shortage of electricity has reached the critical stage. The Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) announced half hourly load-shedding on last week to cope with the electricity shortage that, it says, is in the range of 700-900 MW. The distribution companies, already restoring to unannounced power cuts, have now been directed to issue a complete load-shedding schedule so that people can plan their activities accordingly. WAPDA has also sought the help of different chambers of commerce and industry to ask industrial units to observe the weekly holiday in a staggered manner rather than on Sundays only.
According to press reports the situation is going to worsen in the near future. The power shortage that has been estimated to remain in the range of 1000 to 1500 MW during the current year is likely to cross 3000 MW next year and is likely to increase by about 5500 MW by 2010. "Since four out of five major initiatives planned by the authorities to meet this mounting shortage are still uncertain, the shortage can be anybody's guess," a source in the Ministry said, revealing that the Prime Minister has summoned an urgent meeting to review the situation.
The government has planned to add an overall power generation capacity of about 7880 MW by 2010. Of this, about 4860 MW was to be based on natural gas, accounting for 61 percent of the capacity expansion. However, the gas-based power expansion of about 4860 MW would remain in doubt since these estimates are based on three gas import options for completion in 2010, 2015 and 2020.
This means that the major part of about 4860 gas-based plants would not be available and the difference would be met through other costly options. "Even if the physical work is started today, it will take at least seven years to complete a pipeline project," said a senior petroleum ministry official. He has no answer as to when a pipeline project could be taken in hand from now on. The fifth initiative of the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import is expected to remain on schedule and start delivering about 0.3 billion cubic feet of gas (BCFD) by 2015.
Despite tall claims and rhetoric usually made at the highest level, nothing concrete is visible on the ground to ease the worsening power shortage in the country. Pakistan's energy requirement is increasing by 10 percent for the last 5/6 years but the supply position remained almost static during this period. By now we are almost faced with a crisis on our power front. In November last Pakistan experienced a worst and longest power breakdown in history, which was mainly the result of shortage of electricity. When demand outstrips the capacity it causes a ripple effect resulting in the collapse of entire system. According to experts we will continue to live with this phenomenon unless we take drastic action on war footing to improve the power generation of the country without which the tall claim of 8 percent growth in GDP in future will only be a dream.
The power policy-2002 announced by the present government with a big fanfare and which was supposed to serve as a better replacement of the 1994 power policy has failed to deliver. No doubt generation of hydro power is a long process, but there has been a dead silence on major dams despite all earlier rhetoric. The work has not yet started even on the Diamir Bhasha Dam, which was inaugurated by the President about six months back. A blanket hush has also over taken the government about Kalabagh Dam in spite of the President's assertion that misunderstandings and misconception about the reservoir have been removed. The government has been talking of importing electricity and gas but practically there has been no progress on any of the several projects. Similarly, despite huge potential alternative energy, we have been extremely slow in exploiting the potential.
Power policy 2002 failed to deliver because of 2 mega factors i.e. non-availability of gas and upfront tariff determined by NEPRA. As a result, sponsors of six fast track thermal power projects of 1450 MWs backed out. This proved a serious blow as it discouraged and disheartened other intending investors.
President General Pervez Musharraf, in one of the meetings held recently, said that the government is pursuing an extensive programme to meet the country's growing energy needs to sustain high economic growth and fast paced industrialization. Chairing a high level meeting, also attended by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to review the power sector plans, he said that the nation has to tap all sources of energy generation to cater to its demand.
It's encouraging that President Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz have been focusing on the country's growing energy needs periodically to keep the authorities concerned on their toes for boosting power production. It manifests their cognizance of the significance of long drawn planning in keeping with the imperatives of the growing economies. Interestingly, Pakistan has the options of hydel, thermal, nuclear and coal based modes of energy generation. Hydel and nuclear are, however, the cheaper sources of energy production for our nation. Nuclear energy is of course cheaper, cleaner and safer and that's why Europe has opted for it. That Pakistan is also bending on nuclear energy as is evident from reports about selection of six sites for installation of more power plants to increase the country's generation capacity to 8,800 MW nuclear power by 2030 with Chinese help is certainly a matter of satisfaction. What's, however, agitating is that there is no movement on the hydel power production plans as well as the construction of major water reservoirs. Despite the fact that the ground breaking ceremony of Bhasha Dam was performed by President Musharraf months ago contrary to the brisk activity on site and in media witnessed during the construction of Tarbela and Mangla dams in the past speed of work is rather too slow on Bhasha.
A blanket hush has also overtaken the government about Kalabah Dam in spite of he President's assertions that misunderstandings and misperceptions about the reservoir have since been removed. It is firmly believed that President Musharraf alone can build the Kalabagh Dam in the given political conditions in the country. It's, therefore, incumbent upon the President and Prime Minister not only to put up hard work for the good of the country, but also let it be known to the people. These are the mega projects with which the nation's destiny is linked. The contrived silence is simply enigmatic.