ALTERNATIVE ENERGY RESOURCES LACKING SUPERVISION
INTERVIEW: PROF. DR. NASIM A. KHAN, VICE CHANCELLOR HAMDARD UNIVERSITY
Dec 12 - 18, 2011
Prof. Dr. Nasim A. Khan is an authority on energy issues, and has worked extensively on the development of alternative energy resources in the country.
The current energy crisis is posing a serious threat to socioeconomic development and requires short, medium and long-term solutions for sustainable growth of the national economy on sound footings.
Dr. Nasim, when asked to give his expert opinion on the short term solutions especially to combat critical power shortages, suggested with a sarcastic smile on his face that the solutions are there yet the will to resolve issues dissipates at the decision making and implementation stages.
He disclosed that generating capacity of over at least 700mw of power is readily available with the sugar mills, which operate only for five months in a year while the power generation capacity remains unutilized during offseason when crushing is not carried out. It is unfortunate that despite having an easy solution to combat the energy crisis the competent authorities and the sugar millers have not yet able to sort out the tariff issue. Instead of paying heavily to rental power plants, a reasonable tariff offered to sugar industry could have provided much sought after relief to the load shedding problem currently faced by the domestic, commercial and industrial consumers across the country.
Besides the sugar mills, a huge capacity is also available with the domestic consumers having installed generators at their premises especially in the posh areas of the urban centers. These generators could be linked with the grid quite readily provided reasonable tariff is offered to buy back the untapped sources through net metering. This offer would place both the purchaser and the seller in a win-win situation.
He referred to the current energy policy, which encourages the private sector to come in front besides IPPs, captive and grid spillover power projects, and the isolated grid power projects both small and stand-alone. The policy has made it mandatory for the power distribution utilities to buy all the electricity offered to them by RE projects. The electricity shall be purchased from power producers at a voltage of 220kv at the outgoing bus bar.
The minimum average power to be supplied in each case would be 1250kw/km, 250 kw/km, 100 kw/km and 20 kw/km. Speedy determination of tariff is required especially in case of sugar industry or other bulk power producing units in the private sector industry.
The similar capacity is also available with other industrial units having their own captive power plants. It is interesting to note that there is no need of acquiring power producing license for 1-5mw power generation, so the involvement of government procedures is also done away with to make things easy.
Dr. Nasim expressed his concern that the swift changes are on its way on the energy scenario as the international players are working on various options including solar energy, wind power, shale gas, and wind power projects and if the local industry is not developed, the major chunk of the cake would be enjoyed by foreign investors.
He was of the view that the wind power as well as solar energy is about to take over the reign of energy regime and the situation calls for efforts to develop a downstream industry in both the sectors.
At the moment, work is under progress on development on wind turbines in the coastal belt of Sindh, yet the matter of concern is that what we can produce within the country is being imported at much higher rates. He said there is a need for serious efforts to manufacture wind turbines within the country, which is not a hi-tech industry.
He strongly recommended that we should evolve policies for building up local industry for wind power turbines as well as solar panels which have the potential to create tremendous job opportunities.
It is the time to focus on the development of available alternative energy resources by joint efforts of the public and private partnership.
Commercially exploitable wind resources exist in many parts especially in Sindh and coastal belt of Balochistan with a sustainable wind speed along side the Keti Bandar and Gharo corridor. Currently, three projects are in the process and many more are lined up. If indigenous material is allowed to use for manufacturing of wind turbine, this would help developing strong engineering base in the country.
Solar energy is the source is available in plenty all over the country especially Balochistan, Sindh and southern Punjab. The abundant solar irradiation is estimated to over 2MWh/m and 3000 hours of sunshine a year, which is at the highest end of global insulation averages.
Presently, the total hydroelectric potential in the country has not been fully investigated, but conservatively estimated to be 45,000mw; this capacity consists of all sizes of hydropower plants including storage-based and high-head schemes on mountainous streams in the north and low head, run-of-the-river plants on rivers and canals in the southern plains.
When asked to comment on why such an attractive policy failed to produce tangible results, Dr. Nasim took a pause before coming out with the words "Pakistan factor". Uncertainty, law and order and of course lack of stability in all terms did not allow the policy to produce results. One of the major factors was the frequent change of ministers, as you know change of hands always disrupts the rhythm. Energy is a highly technical subject but unfortunately, the persons responsible for supervisory controls are usually nontechnical persons.
Dr. Nasim was of the strong opinion that there should be an engineer to look after the energy issues as a minister. It is quite obvious that a person who knows the game can play well in his respective fields. So it is quite important to note for the decision makers to select a person having relevant knowhow about the respective ministries in the larger interest of the country and the people.