Apr 25 - May 1, 2011

Despite the fact that Pakistan is blessed with huge renewable energy resources particularly wind, solar, hydropower and biomass, it is currently facing an energy shortage of approximately 4,000 to 50,000 MW and it is expected that the demand-supply gap will exceed this summer beyond 5,000 MW.

There exists vast opportunities of exploiting potential of producing cheap electricity through hydel source in Azad Kashmir but lack of resources is stated to be major impediment.

Currently, about 70 percent electricity is generated through thermal source, which is costly while 30 percent electricity is produced through hydel source. With optimal utilization of water and hydropower resources, we can cope with the increasing demand of water and electricity in the country. In this regard, policy makers need to focus to exploit hydel power in Azad Kashmir. This will not only enable to produce cheap electricity but also can help improve overall economic condition in the country. At present, loaning facility for power sector is almost negligible. The reason for this is that financial institutions believe that risk is involved in investment to power sector.

The need of the hour is to bring about greater awareness in the business community about the huge potential that Pakistan offers in the renewable energy.

Currently, the Peshawar Electric Supply Company, Faisalabad Electric Supply Company, and Hyderabad Electric Supply Company are conducting 11-hour load shedding in rural areas and four to six hours in urban areas on a daily basis. In other distribution companies, the bigger cities are facing four-hour and villages are experiencing maximum seven-hour outages.

According to the Pepco official, the industry is not suffering any load shedding. However, power looms and industries-dominated feeders have been facing four and six-hour electricity outages, respectively. Industry remains our priority. That is why there is no load shedding for general industry, continuous processing industry and textile sector. Textile mills are consuming 490MW, cement industry 230MW and the continuous processing industry 450MW of electricity on a daily basis.

He stated that problems in gas supply were contributing to shortfall of power generation. Four IPPs (Orient, Saf, Sapphire and Rosh) were getting 31mmcfd each against their demand of 38mmcfd each, contributing to an extended shortfall of 225MW. The gas suspension for two units (three and four) of Kapco Power Plant and low supply for Guddu Power Plant are creating a considerable loss in power production, he said and added that gas is not available for the power plant of Faisalabad and Jamshoro.

Apart from severe fuel and gas shortage hampering power generation, Pakistan Electric Power Company's failure to maintain its own thermal units causes a considerable portion of the total shortfall and people are forced to face up to 12 hours of load shedding on a daily basis.

Experts believe that mainstreaming of renewable energy can help diversify Pakistan's energy mix to protect the environment and reduce dependence on imported fossil fuel.

According to them, China can extend much help to Pakistan in overcoming power crisis.

It may be noted that a delegation of China Three Gorges Corporation recently visited Pakistan and had shown interest to invest about $15 billion in the power sector. Three Gorges Corporation, the Chinese State owned Corporation dealing with construction of power infrastructure signed an agreement for 720MW hydropower project. The company also made a plan for hydro projects having 10,000 MW capacity worth $15 billion which would be completed within next 10 years. The financial assistance for the projects would be arranged from china, Chinese and international commercial banks while through bonds, finances would also be arranged for the purpose. China Three Gorges Corporation also offered to develop multi-purpose hydro electric projects through direct financing model based on public private partnership and BOT.

Chairman of the state owned China Three Gorges Project Corporation (CTGPC), Cao Guangjing said during the visit that their corporation is looking for investment and other cooperation for 1100 MW Kohala Hydropower, 7100 MW Bunji Hydropower and 720 MW Karot Hydropower and various other projects in the country.

He said that the corporation is all set to start construction of 50 MW wind power project in Jhampir (Sindh) and will complete it next year and it has also planned to install 2000 MW wind power and 300 MW solar power projects in Pakistan.

Experts say the country has potential to generate about 350,000 MW electricity through wind. However, they said electricity being generated through solar is not affordable in the country.

There is also need for reforms in power sector apart from addressing financial issues through curtailing unnecessary expenditures in power sector. Enough is enough, the government needs to work on fast track basis to produce cheap electricity through exploiting hydel potential instead of relying on thermal power generation.