May 24 - 30, 20

In the wake of persistent power crisis confronted to the country, the Iranian offer to supply 2200 MW electricity at 3 times cheaper rates compared to those of Rental Power Plants (RPPs) to Pakistan reflects attachment the brotherly country has with Pakistan.

However, indifferent attitude of the policy makers on this sincere offer of brotherly country should be a matter of concern.

According to reports, Iran is already supplying power to peripheral areas with the Pakistani border in Tehran. Iran is exporting power to Turkey, Armenia and Afghanistan and its price is immensely attractive for Pakistan. Pakistan is presently getting 39 MW of electricity supply from Iran for Gwadar.

The Iranian ambassador to Pakistan Mashallah Shakri had already said Iran is ready to increase the offer of 1100 MW electricity to 2200 MW. But, to avail it, Pakistan will have to build an appropriate infrastructure. He also said Pakistan can obtain financial assistance for this project from international financial institutions or Islamic Development Bank. Iran may also consider provision of the required financing, he added.

Mashallah Shakri said he held a number of meetings with the officials of Water and Power Ministry and PEPCO but so far no solid progress has been made in this regard.

Iran is willing to go to the Samaritan route, provided that necessary infrastructure and processes are developed to completely reap the benefits of this power package. However, Islamabad has remained shockingly mum about this, giving the Iranians reason to doublethink their charitable overture.

It is not understandable why our policy makers are not placing efforts such as the Iranian offer right at the top of their to-do list. This import of electricity, at much more affordable rates than those provided by the Independent Power Producers (IPPs), would have to make its way through Balochistan to the national grid, a movement that would require building the necessary infrastructure in that province. However, with all things even remotely related to Balochistan, the authorities prefer to remain suspiciously quiet.

Load-shedding has already taken a heavy toll on the people and the economy, with power outages hitting many hours in urban and rural areas.

Critics say that the government is still making tall claims about providing some respite through the IPPs and tapping into dam financing provides little solace as we hear the same authorities harp on about the same matter year after year with no results to support their claims.

They were of the view that the government must accept the Iran offers and works on fast track to bring the same in national grid. Why has the PPP government not taken the advantage of Iran's offer so far when an MoU has already been signed between the two countries way back in December 2008? According to it, Iran will provide 1135 MW electricity in first phase, which may be doubled in the next phase. It is beyond one's wits as to why Pakistan has kept mum over this offer when its people are suffering from severe shortage of power?

World Bank had already suggested policy measures for power sector that would comprise: (i) to enable financial recovery of the sector and to ensure the continued improvement of the financial viability of the sector; (ii) design and implement a social protection program for the power sector that would assist (more directly) the vulnerable sections of the consuming population to receive minimum amount of electricity in an affordable manner; (iii) streamline the institutional setup within the government to increase the efficiency of decision making as far as policy formulation, planning and investment, private sector participation, development of coal etc are concerned; strengthen the autonomy and accountability of the sector entities which continue to be public-sector owned, especially distribution companies, and refine the industry structure to enable more private sector participation, lesser government guarantees, and more power trading; (iv) increase private sector participation in the sector using different approaches such as public-private partnerships (PPPs), in hydroelectric and thermal generation as well as in distribution; and (v) enhance regional cooperation for energy trade as a means of diversifying energy supply and thereby increase energy security.

According to Minister for Water and Power, Raja Pervez Ashraf, power supply from Iran could take four to five years.

Pakistan wanted electricity from Iran and have signed two agreements in this connection but constructing a transmission line could take time, he said. In order to get 100 megawatts electricity, there must be a provision of transmission lines that need to be constructed and hopefully the said 100 MW would become part of the national grid in 2011.

Raja Pervez Ashraf said to get 1000 Megawatts power from Iran there is need of construction of 750 long transmission line. Experts are of the view that early adoption and utilisation of modern solar and geothermal technologies including solar cookers, geothermal heat pumps, solar water heaters and solar water pumping etc., are also necessary to take full advantage of the available natural energy resources, on one hand and to meet the energy requirements of the country, on the other.

"The energy crisis has forced upon a vigorous search for out of box, imaginative and bold solutions," they added.

According to them, there are various available options of solar and geothermal technologies that could be exploited and utilised for meeting the present energy needs of the country but what is needed will of the government and right steps in the right directions to overcome the power crisis.