BRIDGING POWER DEFICIT ON WAR FOOTING
FOCUS SHOULD BE ON COAL AND NUCLEAR SOURCES.
May 30 - June 5, 2011
With the start of operation of the third nuclear power project at Chashma, the country's nuclear energy generation has now reached at 725 megawatts. Though the induction of over 300mw is not enough to meet the ever rising demand of power yet we are moving in the right direction, but at snail's pace, which certainly needs to be accelerated.
It may be noted that Pakistan's "Energy Security Plan" envisages an increase in nuclear power generation from the current 725 MW to 8800 MW by the year 2030 to meet the country's growing energy demands. It is a long-term plan while the current power situation calls for conversion of this plan from long to medium term, which is imperative to catch up the fast growing demands of the world market.
Pakistan's third nuclear electric power plant goes into operation recently which has started pumping another 300 MW into the national grid in a bid to help meet the country's growing energy demand and cut down the shortfall.
Chashma Nuclear Power Plant Unit-1 (CHASNUPP-2) is located near Chashma Barrage on the left bank of River Indus, 32 KMs south of Mianwali City and, 280 KMs south-west of Islamabad.
Being operational from this month, the plant has a net capacity of 300 MW, and a gross capacity is 325 MW.
The IAEA Board of Governors had unanimously approved the Safeguards Agreement between Pakistan and IAEA in respect of CHASHMA-2 nuclear power in November 2006. Pakistan's two research reactors and two nuclear power plants (KANUPP and CHASHMA-1) are already under the IAEA safeguards.
It may be recalled that country's first Canadian pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) at Karachi - KANUPP, with a gross capacity of 137 MW is generating net 125 MW and is under international safeguards. However, KANUPP has already come to its age as it was constructed during Ayub Khan regime more than four decades back, however whatever it is producing is a bonus to the electricity pool of the country.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency's Power Reactor Information System, there are 443 nuclear power reactions in operation, with a total installed capacity of over 375 GW around the world. When compared with Pakistan nuclear capacity it is small drop in the ocean. Though it's a costly affair yet once it is in production the cost of nuclear power will be almost identical to what we are producing through hydel resources.
It is interesting to note that the country has estimated tight gas reserves of 33 trillion cubic feet (tcf) which are more than the existing estimated natural gas reserves of 27 tcf in the country.
According to Deputy Managing Director (operations), Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) Syed Hassan Nawab the country will have sufficient natural gas if tight gas is explored with the help of advanced technology.
He pointed out that the government has prepared the draft policy for tight gas and it is currently with the Council of Common Interest (CCI) and this will be approved soon.
Quoting some of the incentives in the draft tight gas policy, he said that investors would be offered 40 percent premium on the current gas price for exploring tight gas. Similarly, 50 percent premium will be offered on current gas price to investors if they commission their project by December 2011.
Hassan Nawab said that Pakistan can also produce gas from Thar coal with the help of underground coal gasification (UCG) technology. There is a potential to produce 35 tcf of coal-bed methane from Thar coal, he noted.
The availability of natural gas can be enhanced through the import of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from neighboring countries like Qatar and Iran through 3rd party arrangements. Since we have a large network of pipelines and the importer of LNG can pump this gas to their buyers in upcountry destinations.
It is an interesting phenomenon that the demand for crude oil has decreased due to high prices and it is not likely to be increased in the near future as the large buyers like China and India have trimmed their needs and in the face of economic slow down USA and Europe have also reduced demands for oil.
Saudi Arabia has recently told OPEC conference in Vienna, that it will be comfortable with a price range of $70 to 80 a barrel; other members were aspired for a higher price.
CONCLUSION: In view of chronic energy crisis, the people at the helm of affairs will have to think about enhancing the role of private investment especially from Pakistani investors for speedy development of alternative energy resources.
The government of Sindh has set a good example in this respect and is actively involved in developing a coal based power project at Thar coal in collaboration with Engro Corporation. It is the term for the governments of Punjab and Azad Kashmir to open doors for private investment in hydropower generation, which has the potential to meet the power requirement of the entire country.
Why the private sector is not encouraged for investment in hydel resources and why the financial sector is shy of extending funds to Pakistani investors is a question to ponder over. We have to rely on our own people rather than looking for foreign investments in each sector. Foreign investment is good for any economy but foreigners come with a single agenda that is profit maximization; they don't have love for the country as compared to local investors which naturally have a sense of belonging to the motherland as compared to the foreign investors. Pakistani investors have great potential, skills, and capacity to steer the economy out of troubled water. Many Pakistani investors have delivered and proved their worth wherever they were taken into confidence. Hence, the economic future of this country is in the hands of Pakistanis and Pakistanis alone.