PRIVATE SECTOR'S INTERESTS IN WIND ENERGY RISING

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Apr 25 - May 1, 2011

Encouraged by the start-up of 6-megawatt wind power project in the underdeveloped remote area of Sindh, private sector and international financial institutions are taking interests in tapping the wind energy potential in Pakistan. Thirteen independent power producers have submitted feasibility studies of wind power projects to the government while national electric power regulatory authority (Nepra) has allowed so far seven companies to generate wind electricity, according to the public records of Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB), a sole state-run body to administer and facilitate investments in the alternative renewable energy projects nationwide. A consortium of local and foreign financial institutions also promised to finance, for the first time, private sector's wind power project in Sindh.

Energy crisis is worsening as supply and demand gap is widening day by day. Load shedding of electricity is hampering industrial production on one hand and it is making lives of households miserable in the sweltering summer. Hours-long brownouts variable from places to places are affecting the routine lives that are dependent on electricity to remain normal.

Pakistan's wind energy potential stands at somewhere around 350,000 megawatts. Alone Sindh has unmatchable potential of wind electricity generation in the country and the fact has been substantiated by local and international surveys and reports. Wind corridor in Southern parts of Pakistan has a potential of 50,000 megawatts. If works are started on war footing to set up wind power plants in the region, Pakistan can become energy-efficient country soon.

Foreign financial institutions have found renewable energy projects in Pakistan worth financing and they are keen to extend financial assistances to the government as well as to the private consortiums to build wind power turbines. Recently, Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved USD37 million loans for Zorlu Enerji Electrik, a Turkish-based utility group that pioneered private investments in wind energy sector in the country, to expand its wind power production capacity in Pakistan.

Zorlu started electricity generation from its wind plants located in a rural area of Sindh, near Karachi, in 2009 and reached a production capacity of six megawatts. The ADB's loan was sanctioned for setting up of wind turbines to increase generation to 56 megawatts. The same location was said to be selected for expansion of the wind farm and the project would be completed by next year. Total cost of the expansion project was estimated at $147 million. Zorlu would chip in 30 per cent of the project's cost and International Finance Corp, ECO Trade Development and Bank, and Habib Bank are reported to fill in the monetary gap. This is because of the viability of renewable energy projects that foreign funds are flowing in the country. Local and foreign institutions should be facilitated to make the remaining funds available as soon as possible so that the project would be completed on the deadline. Zorlu's initiative has encouraged private investors to embark on renewable energy ventures.

The government's plan of increasing wind power share to six per cent in the energy mix by 2030 seems to underestimate the magical power of wind. Experts believe unrelenting focus on the installation of wind farms is required to meet the energy deficits.

Just like the government assembles officials on ad hoc basis to meet the rising needs of a project, it should also bring into existence a department absolutely dedicated to the wind energy projects. The work force should be assembled from eclectic sources under the headship of provincial ministries. Indian government has formed a ministry of new and renewable energy and because of its efficient management wind energy sector in India boasts of 11,807 megawatts installed capacity. Its onshore wind electricity potential is not more than 65,000 megawatts. Pakistan has six times production potential and ironically, it has no specialised ministry to administer the clean energy sector.

AEDB comes under the supervision of the federal ministry of water and power and is a body to facilitate investments in to the alternative energy technologies in the country. Questions over the management inaptness of the AEDB are raised frequently, based on the logical grounds that the board has not made considerable success in the renewable energy sector so far. The board's chief is complacent with the performance of the organization and positive about wind power generation. The country would have 900 megawatts solar and wind electricity within next three years, chief executive officer AEDB, Arif Alauddin reportedly said in January 2011.

Uninterrupted creation of wind farms would raise significantly wind electricity share in the energy mix within five years. Investments, engineering parts, lands, and departmental procedures are four essentials to set up a wind farm. Firstly, private sector is always set to explore lucrative ventures and renewable energy has a win-win solution for people and the investors. Secondly, government has to ensure availability of wind turbines and other engineering parts and localized engineering can prove effective in reducing import delay issues, in addition to develop domestic industrial resources. Turkish wind energy project in Sindh had started operation much later than its due commencement owing to the importation issue following the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on 27th December 2007. Thirdly, it is again the responsibility of the government to get lands clear for the development of wind farms. Land allocation is one, it is equal to crack iron nuts for the investors to have the right of ways in some remote locations in southern parts as the revenue officials drag land surveys, which are preliminary tasks before preparation of feasibility reports. Corruption is one thing lack of funds also thwarts progress of the energy projects. Surveyors, for example, need suitable transportation funds to the least to perform their jobs.

The government has to come up with some concrete measures to remove energy obstacles in the way of the economic progress. Electricity demand and supply gap is dangerously high and so are its tariffs abnormally. More than 43 per cent population of Pakistan is not supplied electricity at all.