TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
Feb 23 - Mar 01, 2009

Despite elapse of over two years of announcement of first renewable energy policy in December 2006, its practical outcome has not yet appeared. It can be recalled that the policy was presented with much fanfare in three short, mid, and long terms plans to develop renewable energy modes as alternative power sources in the country. While in some way, the policy has made progress typically when it induces incentives for private sector with an aim of increasing its participation in wholesale power generation through renewable technologies it apparently has not created an investment friendly environment. That is specifically evident in lethargic entry of investors in wind power project, which holds pivotal position in the renewable energy policy. In wind energy, so far nationwide only one foreign venture embarked on an ambitious construction of wind farm for electricity generation, although small quantity of power is produced for retail utilization.

In addition, that short-term plan envisaged completion and then replacement by midterm plan by June 2008. However, in reality it was recently further extended to December this year by Alternative Energy Development Board. When contacted, an official told this scribe that there were numerous hurdles in the way of achieving desirable objectives. The board is not alone to kick out renewable energy projects per se or to implement plans, he said adding, "We have to triumph over scores of problems ranging from security, bureaucratic hurdles, political expediencies, to economic confines to keep abreast with our facilitation services to investors," he said.

Take an example of making availability of lands for wind mills, "It puts our life into great risk while we conduct surveys around deserted or mostly illegally occupied lands", on condition of anonymity revealed a AEDB survey officer, who gathers information about un-surveyed lands feasible for wind farms around Sindh. 'Survey is important to verify existence of lands as corruption is common in revenue department.' AEDB is a government institute that facilitates investors in relation to their intentions in investments in wind, solar, biodiesel power projects.

The aims of renewable energy policy were relevant to establishment of certain numbers of independent power projects, spillover power projects, captive power projects, and isolated grid projects. The interests of foreign investors in wind power projects reflect in the recently built setup of wind-run electricity plants by a Turkish company in Jhimpir, Sindh. It is said that once connected to grid these wind turbines would generate 6MW electricity in Phase 1 for Hesco. Much ballyhooed functioning of Turkish wind project is still to be seen. Why did inauguration linger on since Mushraf's regime? The company had also postponed shipment of wind turbines following rumpus after December 27, informed the survey officer.

He said AEDB has allocated 33,000 acres lands under incentive programmes to 22 local and foreign investors for establishment of wind farms. 'There is a lack of initiation on the part of local investors as they all are waiting for who-go-first.' Turkish company has past experience in wind energy. The board has finished all preliminary studies pertaining to recent allocation, he said. 'The land is on thirty-year lease even though only payment accrues on 10 year span initially, rest amount is due after that period. That is basically an incentive and can limit stakeholders' hassle to importation of wind turbines.'

World's eagerness towards alternative energy technologies has resulted in upsurge in demands of allied apparatuses. Similar is the case with wind mills. The upsurge in demands of wind turbines and ancillary equipments has enlarged work orders of manufacturing companies. The delay in local wind projects has reason in that, he remarked. The quality of equipments in Pakistan is not as good as to compete with international standards and therefore investors show reluctance to place orders locally, he replied when asked why local manufacturing is not harnessed to meet rising demands. 'Unfortunately, we have already experienced disappointments over installation of indigenous wind turbines and equipments. Within a small period, either polls caught rust or turbines developed mechanical faults.'

Since surveyed lands are in majority located in creek areas, we cannot ignore element of perishablity, he commented. Although Sindh has vast wind corridor, manometer records relatively better wind pressures on seaside. Besides, wastelands in its rural areas are also ideal for setting up wind mills. "I don't know if there is any government restriction on companies erecting wind polls for their personal uses," he said with reference to regulations for start of personal wind project. 'Preferably, the board discards off residential places in the list of potential sites of wind projects.' Moreover, it is not suitable [under assorted parameters] to erect wind stand of approximately 120 meter height at public places. If one goes below that height, output will be sufficient only to electrify small numbers of household's gizmos. 'I assume domestic generation is not pertinent so as to run ACs. Yet, it is still cost effective energy solutions amongst substitutes.'

"As per estimates, a wind turbine should transfer 2MW to grid station to become economically viable option. For that matter, technical aspects of landside are analyzed in terms of buffer zone i.e. unused fragment between two farms, distance in between wind polls, soil testing results to prevent accident, etc. In addition, accurate measurement of variable wind speed and pressure determines efficiency of energy outputs." It seems that sustainable wind power is a result of combined efficacy of interdependent mechanisms.

Without ensuring fearless and amicable participation of local investors in alternative energy initiations in particular wind project that has immediate solutions to energy crisis, government will unlikely to get positive results out of renewable energy policy.