IMPORTANCE OF ESTABLISHING SOUTH ASIAN ENERGY BLOCK

SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Feb 02 - 08, 2009

Pakistan is excessively dependent on oil and gas for meeting its energy requirements. The recent bull run of crude oil prices and its adverse impact on the economy demands review of the existing policies. Pakistan is blessed with huge reserves of coal, plenty of sunshine and hundreds of kilometers long coastal line suitable for installing windmills. The country can also exploit the bio fuel potential by producing ethanol and generating electricity at the sugar mills. Similarly, a little focus on maize crop can open a new chapter in the history of Pakistan.

Presently, the total installed electricity generation capacity in the country is about 20,000MW. There are plans to add 6,500MW through the IPPs, including 700MW of Wind Power. Efforts are being made to import gas through pipeline as well establishing LNG terminal. Contract for establishing coal-based power plant have been signed. A wind power plant would shortly commence generation. Work on mega dams is also started. However, there is lack of coordination and coherence in the policies.

The worst display of conflict of interest and government's lack of commitment is evident from delay in introduction of bio fuel, particularly a blend of petrol and ethanol. Sugar mills operating in the country produce millions of tons of molasses, which is exported rather than using for production of alcohol. Similarly, bulk power purchase tariff for sugar mills has not been finalized. Exploitation of coal remains a far cry.

In an effort to promote alternative energy in Pakistan, the government has issued letters of intent (LOI) to a number of companies for putting up wind mill projects in the identified areas. However, so far it remains a statement of intent and requires speedy follow up by the government. Unfortunately, such companies have been provided land, which have not even signed contract to purchase equipment while those who have signed contracts, have not acquired land, which has been one of the major reasons for delay in production of electricity through windmills. Now, the government has decided to cancel all the LOI of such companies that has shown no progress on the ground.

Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) has been established to promote all environmental friendly alternative / renewable energy resources. Since its inception the most important accomplishment of AEDB has been the creation of realization amongst decision makers regarding importance of utilization of these resources in the country. This accomplishment has been equally rigorously pursued with private investors who have already committed to develop projects based on these technologies with potential investment of US $5 Billion.

The Government of Pakistan has tasked the Board to ensure 5% of total national power generation capacity to be generated through renewable energy technologies by the year 2030. In addition, under the remote village electrification program, AEDB has been directed to electrify about 8,000 remote villages in Sindh and Balochistan provinces through renewable energy technologies. AEDB also has to develop a comprehensive plan for the development of solar products, like, solar lights, solar fans, solar cookers and solar geysers through the participation of private sector.

Pakistan has a considerable potential of wind energy in the coastal belt of Sindh, Balochistan and as well as in the desert areas of Punjab and Sindh. The data has been collected in association with Pakistan Metrological Department and analyzed by AEDB. As per the collected data, the coastal belt of Pakistan is blessed with a God gifted wind corridor that is 60 km wide (Gharo and Kati Bandar) and 180 km long (up to Hyderabad). This corridor has the exploitable potential of 50,000MW of electricity generation through wind energy. The region of South Asia has a very large potential of energy production.

According to reports, India presently generates about 10,210MWs of power from renewable energy sources. It has the potential of world's fourth largest wind power generation and generates about 8,700MW of wind energy but it can generate up to 45,000MW. Bangladesh claims that it has the potential to generate 2,200MWs from alternative energy sources including 300MW from solar energy, 1,000MW from wind energy, and 900MW from biomass. Bhutan has the potential to produce 30,000MW of hydropower but so far, very little has been done on that front. Nepal, on the other hand, has about 300 sunny days in a year and efforts have been conducted in order to utilize this resource effectively. To promote rural electrification, the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre of Nepal plans to install 150,000 solar home systems in rural areas by 2012.

High levels of complementaries in energy sectors among the countries of the region allow varying comparative advantages. If India has an edge in producing coal-based energy Pakistan and Bangladesh have the benefit of gas-based power generation, while Nepal and Bhutan are hydro-based. Some serious efforts have been made for regional cooperation in energy sector. This can achieve the desired objective of the regional integration. Confidence-building measures are thus required so that its benefits are also enjoyed by other countries of the region.

It is noteworthy here that even with so much potential of power generation in the region; we are still facing the power crisis. The region has to work together to fight this crisis, the development and employment could be brought to these countries. The countries have to cooperate with each other in energy trade. It is worth mentioning that South Asia is a densely populated region, yet has lowest per capita consumption of electricity. The prosperity of Europe and developed countries is because of their unity and joint working projects. This should be taken as example by South Asian countries which should develop a trade working body that should resolve issues related to energy trade in the region.