ELECTRICITY SCENARIO IN BALOCHISTAN
Rich in Energy Resources, the Province remains Energy Starved
ENGR HUSSAIN AHMAD SIDDIQUI
July 09 - 15, 2007
In the wake of devastating rains and floods in Balochistan, which has damaged infrastructure and displaced some 400,000 persons in twelve districts, the need for adequate supply of electricity has assumed more significance than ever before, for undertaking reconstruction and community development programmes in the affected areas.
Indeed, energy is one of the vital elements for achieving economic development and its consumption an indicator of the progress of the region. It is ironical that the province, though rich in energy resources, like oil, natural gas, coal, renewable energy, etc, the energy requirements of Balochistan are generally met with, for heating and cooking purposes, through bio-mass energy like firewood and animal dung and agricultural waste. Due to inadequate and limited gas supply network, natural gas consumption is extremely low. Regrettably, there are just over three percent gas consumers in the province that has huge reserves of gas exploitation of which is benefiting national economy since 1950s.
Likewise, only a minority of 7.58 million population has access to electricity; there are only 406,000 electricity consumers and power supply is neither regular nor dependable, resulting in the lowest per capita power consumption in Balochistan--- almost half of the average national power consumption. The situation reflects on the factors placing Balochistan as the least developed province, though largest by geographical area and of great strategic importance, even after six decades of the inception of Pakistan.
EXPLOITING COAL RESOURCES OPTIMALLY
Coal is the most common fuel for utility and industrial energy generation. Economic factors are in favour of coal utilisation for power generation because of ever-increasing furnace oil prices and depleting gas reserves. Balochistan has proven coal resources of 217 million tons, with measured reserves of over 52 million tons. There are five coalfields; namely Khost-Shahrig-Harnai, Sore Range-Degari, Duki, Mach and Pir Ismail Ziarat-Chamalang, which are well developed today. Currently, an average of 2 million tons of coal is being mined annually from these fields that is more than half of the coal extraction at national level. Sadly, more than 90% coal is despatched to other provinces for various uses and applications, instead of its commercial utilization within Balochistan. The industrial and trade activities have not developed in the province to a satisfactory level.
Additional coal reserves have recently been explored and evaluated in the province. These are located in Loralai and Kohlu districts and Ghazij Basin. The assessment of coal potential and reserve deposits in these areas is being conducted actively at present. The Balochistan coal is generally classified as sub-bituminous to bituminous, and it is considered suitable for power generation. Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (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 twenty years of its lifetime. Nonetheless, at present there is not a single coal-fired power plant in Balochistan worth mentioning.
To meet the projected demand of electricity in Balochistan, it is imperative to develop and use its vast resources of coal for power generation. Due to constraints of existing infrastructure for power transmission and distribution in the area, small sized coal-based power plants may be established at the coalmine-mouths. Given the conditions, the most economical module of the proposed plants would be 6 MW to 10 MW capacity each or a series of multiple units of the same size for achieving higher installed capacity for power generation.
PROMOTING RENEWABLE ENERGY
Solar power, wind energy and micro-hydro systems are among the various resources for renewable energy in Balochistan. Harnessing of these resources however is insignificant at present in relation to the existing potential. Balochistan has a long coastline with sizeable wind energy potential. Wind regime with average wind speeds of 5 to 7 meters per second, which is suitable for wind power generation, exists in most of the areas, such as Naushki, Naukundi, Ormara, Turbat, Pasni, Lasbela and Khuzdar. According to the estimates based on available meteorological data, it has the potential to generate at least 400 MW electricity. In fact, wind energy is unlimited.
Sadly, no serious effort has been made so far to tap the wind energy potential, despite tall claims made by the Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB). Sometime in the 1990s, a foreign investor, in collaboration with the local companies, had shown interest to set up a windfarm project of total 100 MW capacity. Unfortunately, the project, known as Kinetech Wind Power, for which a feasibility study was also carried out by the sponsors, could not see light of the day. To optimize the use of wind energy resource is the proverbial need of the hour and should be given due importance by the government and private sector alike. The stand-alone wind-power units connected to isolated systems are better solution since more than half of the Balochistan population is still not connected to the national grid.
GENERATING POWER FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
Though total installed power generation capacity in Balochistan is of the size of 2,195 MW ñ all gas-based thermal power-- the bulk power supply is in fact dispersed to trunk transmission network for utilization by other provinces. Current power demand of the province is simply in the range of 470 MW, which is met by Quetta Electric Supply Company (QESCO), an entity of the WAPDA. The QESCO purchases a total bulk of 380 MW from Uch Power and WAPDA's Guddu power station, whereas the balance demand is met by power plants installed by the WAPDA recently. 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) that are stand-alone units connected to isolated systems. In addition, there are a number of captive power plants, of cumulative installed capacity of 97 MW, to meet their own industrial requirements of energy.
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. To meet incremental demand of electricity in the province, which is projected at 1,964 MW by the year 2024, the government is making interim arrangements like importing electricity from Iran that would not ensure reliable and affordable energy in future.
Recently the government had invited private sector for developing an Independent Power Project (IPP) of about 100 MW capacity thermal power generation, on Build, Own and Operate (BOO) basis at Khuzdar. Due to lack of interest shown by the investors, the proposal has been dropped and now the WAPDA will establish the power plant. Understandably, the private sector is reluctant to invest in Balochistan for a number of factors. These are: poor law and order situation, remoteness of the area, lack of communications and other infrastructure in most of the area, and low return on investment. It is therefore imperative for the government to initiate various power generation projects in the area at its own, without further delay.
Balochistan is indeed the future of Pakistan. With vast land, low population density and enormous wealth of mineral and natural resources, it has the potential of bringing about prosperity to its populace, as well as to the people of country in general. A sustained and coordinated focus on commercializing all the energy resources, primarily for developing power generation and electrification would support improving socio-economic conditions at a faster pace. Undertaking the proposed projects on priority will result in numerous job opportunities to the locals, initially to those who have lost their wages due to recent calamity.