INTERVIEW WITH MD PEPCO

'MEASURES ARE UNDERWAY TO OVERCOME ELECTRICITY SHORTAGE'

KANWAL SALEEM
Jan 4 - 10, 20
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At present, Pakistan is facing a severe power crisis - considered to be the worst of the four such crises since 1974-75.

The present power crisis is even greater than the one faced by the country during the eighties which gave birth to the concept of the independent power producers (IPPs) and which in a way changed the face of the power sector.

The continuing negatives of the situation have now engulfed the national economy with various problems. Industrial productivity has gone down and the situation portends badly for exports and balance of payment.

Engr. Tahir Basharat Cheema is Managing Director PEPCO. Graduated in Electrical Engineering, he joined WAPDA in 1974. He served WAPDA/PEPCO in various positions. He gained experience in WAPDA of project formulation/monitoring inclusive of analysis, and solution provisions. He took part in recent and earlier corporatization efforts that made him eligible for the top slot in the country's largest power generation and distribution company.

Engr. Tahir Basharat Cheema is responsible for preparation and implementation of Energy Management Modules for PEPCO besides preparation and implementation of Energy Conservation Initiatives for PEPCO. He is also responsible for review and assessment of proposed approaches, strategies, action plans and policies of various corporatization/commercialization undertakings with consonant to efforts towards improving efficiencies and addressing manpower transition issues.

In an interview with Page, Engr. Tahir Basharat said, "we are undertaking both supply side and demand side measures to overcome power shortage. The supply side measures include installation of rental power plants in private sector, induction of fast-track generation capacity by PPIB, rehabilitation of GENCOs existing plants and utilization of redundant capacity of captive power plants. The demand side measures include reduction of demand through energy conservation and load management, as a MW saved is, in fact, better than a MW generated."

He said the present government had taken up issue of new power generation very seriously as new power plants were panned to start producing power.

Similarly, an additional 502 MW of hydro power to the system is planned by 2011. To further improve energy generation, 22 IPPs with a grand total of 4608 MW are on the anvil for joining in by June 2012.

In his view, power sector, as a rule, has always been finance intensive. It is large investments that make the sector move to the next generation of technologies, a must for any standard system. On the other hand, the returns are also large and many an invested amount is returned to investors within the year. Without new investments and heavy outlays on operation and maintenance of power systems, the sector will simply stagnate.

Besides, it is of utmost importance that new and needed technologies must be inducted as a necessary tool from time to time.

Actually, the transaction from one step to the next should be visible for all. Unfortunately, he said the Pakistani power sector comprising of the 12 PEPCO managed companies in the public domain and the KESC in the private hands is seen to have stagnated.

This is also the reason for continuing trite operations of power generation and supply companies and a clear difference is seen between this sector and the communication sector.

Engr. Tahir Basharat said the power sector reform process was taken up through vertical de-bundling of WAPDA's Power Wing and corporatization. This had been neglected over the years and in fact that is why power sector deprived of badly needed investment during the last 15 years. Actually, the last one decade has been debilitating.

Highlighting the past investment in the power sector, he said, "we see the worthwhile outlays under the heading of IPPs, when over USD 6.5 billion were invested on arranging for 5728 MW electricity during 1994-1996. It is also a fact that instead of arranging power when needed, the whole chunk of nearly 6000 MW of power came on the surface in a very short span of 24 months or so. This led to issues of handling the surpluses against the earlier shortages - especially when the IPPs had ostensibly come into being without even a tacit approval from WAPDA and its management, which had never planned to handle such a huge chunk of power and that too at higher rates."

He said the situation would have not been such problematic and grim, had the power customers contained itself to the normal load growth of 2-3% a year instead of breaking all barriers and reaching a whooping figure of nearly 14% during 2006-07.

He said the present government was trying to arrest the situation by fast track induction of IPPs and RPPs.

According to him, WAPDA can put up new generation through bridge finance and then arrange for subsequent disinvestment/IPOs. The IPP size should be extended to a minimum of 2000 MW for economy of scale.

Incidentally, neighboring India is facing an equally daunting challenge to contain its runaway power deficits, which invited mega-projects of 4000 MW and above. In their case, the investors have to arrange for their own fuel viz. cheap coal and gas with the infrastructure being built by the government/public sector.

Back to Pakistan, all newly created entities need to be disbanded with the Thar Coal generation being handed over to WAPDA while mining of the coal may be tackled by the Sindh Mines & Minerals Department and the PMDC. The later is also dressed up with no where to go.

As indigenization of fuel for power generation is of prime importance and also a part of any good energy security plan, Cheema said. The country would have to work on conversion of existing generation from oil and gas to local coal. Alternate sources of fuel viz. wind and solar on the basis of an integrated energy plan would also have to be taken in to consideration immediately.

US TO SUPPORT WOMEN'S ECONOMIC PARTICIPATION IN SOUTH PUNJAB

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the South Punjab Women Chambers of Commerce and Industry (SPWCCI) and the USAID/Pakistan FIRMS Project.

Under the MoU, USAID's FIRMS Project will facilitate the acceleration of private sector-led economic growth, specifically for women-run businesses in Southern Punjab, through the adoption of market-oriented technological, managerial, and organizational best practices.

The opportunity for this collaboration emerged from the Women's Small and Medium Enterprise Trade Fair arranged by SPWCCI in November 2009.

At the event, Suzanne Savage, Gender Advisor of the FIRMS Project and Aneela Iftikhar, the President of SPWCCI, explored the opportunity for meaningful joint economic interventions to promote women's entrepreneurship in South Punjab.

The business environment for Pakistani women in general can be restrictive in terms of socio-cultural atmosphere, policies, regulatory arrangements, and institutional mechanisms. Women entrepreneurs brave these inherent biases to make their business ventures successful, and support from their male family members makes a significant difference.

Speaking on the occasion, Aneela Iftikhar, the force behind the establishment of SPWCCI, said, "The signing of the MoU demonstrates our commitment to enable women entrepreneurs to play an active and productive role towards prosperity of their households, their cities, and their country." She further added, "Women entrepreneurs will benefit immensely from the mission of USAID's FIRMS Project to improve government service delivery and develop dynamic and internationally competitive firms to accelerate sales, investment and job growth. We are glad that SPWCCI took the lead in joining hands with the USAID/Pakistan FIRMS Project to ensure the special focus of its future activities on the women of South Punjab."

Due to the economic deprivation of the region, South Punjab has been identified as one of the key intervention areas by USAID. The women entrepreneurs of this area are still facing business startup problems, and they require initiatives that will improve their skill levels and create a more enabling environment for women-owned businesses.

Under this MoU, the USAID/Pakistan FIRMS Project and SPWCCI will enhance the skills of women entrepreneurs and will provide business development services to improve their operations and realize greater benefits from their labor.

Special attention will also be paid to developing the capacities of public and private support institutions to create a more conducive and enabling environment for women-led enterprises.

On the social front, events like the Spouse Appreciation Program will be held to inspire male members of families to extend support to the women entrepreneurs in their midst. (KS)