Jan 28 - Feb 03, 2008

The current ongoing power crisis in the country has raised few very important questions like should Pakistan be dependent upon one or two kind of alternative power sources or should we expand the base of power by exploring and initiating new areas of power generation? There should be a proactive exploitation of indigenous energy reserves such as hydropower and coal. Exploitation of renewable energy such as solar energy, biomass and wind power should be actively pursued. We also must educate the masses on energy conservation.

Forward-looking nations attach much priority to energy. Although their established conventional energy infrastructure guarantees a mid- to long-term prosperous energy future, they are still vigorously developing renewable energy resources to avoid threats to a long-term sustainable energy future.

PAGE: Contacted Syed Sibte Ahmed Jafri, the Chief Executive of Trans Atlantic Energy, who gave us a brief view on all these developments.

PAGE: Firstly, tell me a bit as to how are you looking at the overall energy crisis situation in the country?

SAJ: I see the situation as really bad. I see that still worse has to come.

PAGE: What abrupt measures WAPDA and Pepco could take to come out of the recent ongoing crisis of the energy shortages?

SAJ: I have in this respect presented a paper in the IEEEP Symposium last year. I believe the immediate solution is to take Power Generation sets on Rental basis, from wherever they can be had, sizes to suit existing grid stations where there is space to locate these sets.

It is said that there are a number of Projects in hand which will commence electrical Power Production around year 2011 etc. If so the Rental Sets can bridge that gap. Alternatively if the shortage continues to persist one can extend the period of the Rental of some or all of these sets.

PAGE: On the economic front, how do you see this can pose as a threat to country's food security, forced industrial closures and boost economic recession?

SAJ: The main engine for economic prosperity any where in the world is Electrical Energy. We are putting brakes on the economic prosperity by continued power breakdowns and load shedding. I see therefore very bleak future for the country's economy with the present shortages of Electrical Power; this shortage is going to continue to increase.

PAGE: How much do you think that the industrial captive power plants could save to the nations' energy and how productive that would be?

SAJ: Captive Plants have already been of great help for the industries. However this is not a solution in the long run; for the following three reasons:

This forced investment by the Industrialist could otherwise by put into the modernization and balancing or simple expansion of his Industrial unit.

Captive Power Plant is only viable financially and technically for large industries. Not for the mini or micro level units which are in thousands and provide the backbone to the large Industrial units.

Small Captive Plants cannot be a replacement for the national grid. These are at best short term solutions but on a long term basis strong grid is the only solution technically and financially.

PAGE: In the wake of the rising oil prices, how costly it would be to build thermal plants and what are the other cost effective power generation short term plans available using the maximum in-house country resources?

SAJ: The International cost of oil is presently the bench mark for the Energy price, be it Coal, gas or even the Alternative Energy. If there is increase in International oil price it will affect all countries equally. So it would have self correcting effect.

In so far as the local resources are concerned these are a plenty e.g. Coal, Hydel and Wind. However, each of these sources take time to come on line, and so far the progress has not been very satisfactory. Therefore for the foreseeable future, the dependence on oil shall continue to exist.

PAGE: What is your view on the government thermal energy policy? what could not attract the required private investment, how could we attract any private or foreign investment especially when our country is immensely targeted with suicide bombers all over?

SAJ: The suicide bomber is a recent phenomenon. There have been no real additions to the Private Power Generation Capacity since the last bunch of dozen or so came initiated by the Benazir Govt.

The reason why no substantial addition has been possible is a long debate. I can only say that the investors have continued to show their interest but the delays have been on account of bureaucracy, red tapism and lack of imagination and foresight by those who are supposed to implement the policies. ( like to investigate and write on the 600 Mw Thar Project which Chinese were fairly advanced but they were not allowed the 6 cents tariff that they were asking; they eventually left; today we are allowing an up-front tariff of 7.8 cents!)

PAGE: How Pakistan could man and progress with the looming energy crisis which is growing at a pace of 1500 MW per annum, do the thermal projects in progress would contribute as a solution or what other actions that a government should take on forefront to save the future power turmoil in the country?

SAJ: Coal based project is a "Thermal" Project. Coal based project could resolve the problem. Besides there are many proven sites for Hydel Projects. We should harness those. Then we should go very strongly for the Wind Power. Please investigate why, out of 93 investors who have been given LOI only 20 or so have been given land. How can one develop Wind farm if there is no land? Why should it be difficult to provide land to these people? Land is in abundance in the "Wind Corridor" Gharo/Jhumpir/Nooriabad etc. Investigate what has been done by India who is adding around 1000 MW of Wind Power yearly.

PAGE: How wide this gap between demand and supply would be in the recent scenario of the expansion and infrastructural development all around the city, what do you propose to those constructors, should they also work upon the power generation plants in order to not to be dependent on the highly unreliable sources of energy?

SAJ: There will be problems for all developers, whether Industrial or Residential-cum-office, cum-shops-cum-hotel. No doubt they will have to put up their own power plants, but if they are foreign investors, why should they not take their money some where else where they can get reliable source of Electrical Power?

Please do consider the fact that gas shortage is round the corner. What would be the fuel for these building projects? They can hardly go for Furnace oil fired or Coal Fired Project. Quite frankly I do not have an answer to this.

PAGE: NEPRA had proposed 33% tariff increase last year but only 10% was transferred to the consumers, how do you see this situation, do you think that the consumers should make themselves ready for another additional burden of tariff increase and how will it going to affect the overall cost of living which is already crushed under the high inflationary pressures?

SAJ: Tariff increase by itself is not the answer. We have to have scheme of things by which in the long run we have ample energy from Wind, Hydel and Coal. If this means high tariff initially, for short term, it can be subsidized, but later the price will come down since neither Wind Turbine nor Hydel Turbine needs fuel; O&M cost in both cases is very low. Coal being and indigenous fuel its price can be controlled or subsidized at the mine mouth. Short - term solution in any case would be rental power.

There is absolutely no doubt that higher tariff will affect the cost of living but tariff is proportional to the cost of production. Cost of production goes down substantially when one moves to largish plants.

PAGE: What suggestions would you like to give to the government on? alternative energy sources specially when we lack heavily on the human resource of energy engineers and professionals in conventional (oil and gas, hydropower and nuclear power) and non-conventional (renewable energy) with a proper understanding of the energy sciences?

SAJ: In reply so some of the questions above I have clearly stated my position in favor of Alternative Sources of Energy. That is the future. The sooner we do it the better off we shall be.

In so far as human resources are concerned it is a self correcting phenomenon and a little shortage here or there always gets filled up one way or the other. There are capable Pakistan Engineers all over the world manning all sorts of Power plants for other countries. Given the opportunity they would love to come back to Pakistan and serve their Country. There is a lot of nationalism in the so called "overseas" Pakistanis. Give them a cause and they would surprise every one with their enthusiastic response.

PAGE: Any other thing that you would like to mention?

SAJ: I think I have said enough. However I would like to add only one thing. Have not people who have been in favor of privatization of the Power Sector, had enough? Or would they like to continue with the experimentation until we have fell down the deep precipice?