Lahore: Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz has been claiming to eliminate electricity crisis by 2018 since it came into power in 2013 but the energy experts negate the government’s claim saying that it would not be possible to overcome power crisis by 2024.
Amidst intense sloganeering by the government that the country would get rid of power crisis by 2018, the Ministry of Water and Power has admitted in a recently concluded meeting of Economic Coordination Committee that the power companies are finding hard to pay dues to the Central Power Purchasing Agency. Electricity theft, distribution losses, and weak revenue collection are some of the few reasons cited for the financial traction of power companies.
Reading between the lines, the energy experts could see electricity tariffs going up in coming days while power crisis extending too for many more years.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz contested and almost swept 2013 General Election on the promise to find a permanent solution to load-shedding in the country, which by that time had reached nearly 12 hours in urban and 18 hours in rural areas. Once in power, the government began multiple power generation projects.
Most of the energy project were launched in Punjab as the province consumes 70 percent of the total electricity produced.
Following is the breakdown of power generating units under construction in Punjab.
Coal-Fired Project 1320
Quaid-a-Azam Solar Project 1000
Small Hydel projects (total 5) 500
Small Projects ( 15 to 20) Generation capacity from 5 MW to 15 MW
Secretary Energy Punjab, Dr Asad Gilani, while talking to News Lens Pakistan, was confident that the government would be able to meet its promise of providing uninterrupted power supply by 2018.
When asked about discrepancies in timeline given by different power supplying departments, he refused to make any comment.
An energy expert, Farid Malik, on the other hand, doubts if government’s electricity generation policies are going in right direction. “The NandiPur Power Project is generating only 100 MW whereas its capacity is around 425 MW,” said Malik.
Talking about Sahiwal coal-fired electricity generation project, Malik said that the devil lies in the detail. “What would happen when the project starts? How will coal reach Sahiwal?” Even if the government, he stated, gets over this hurdle and builds a railway line from Sahiwal’s central train station to the site, the cost of production would rise exorbitantly. Whereas the government slogan is to develop cheap energy, said Malik.
Gilani rejected this objection saying that since the project is being developed at the load center, which is Punjab, it would automatically bring down the fears of transmission and line losses since the distribution would not be spread over an excessively wide area.
Load center refers to the area where most of the electricity is consumed.
He explained that three considerations are applied when a site is selected. Either the coal-fired project is installed at the coast, on mine mouth or at load centers.
Faiz Bhutta, ex-chairman Renewable and Alternative Energy Association of Pakistan told News Lens Pakistan,” Leave experts’ opinion. Interestingly, NEPRA, another state-run power sector department, has for quite sometimes posted on its website that 2024 the year by which electricity crisis could possibly be eliminated.”
He said that every year the demand for electricity was growing at the rate of 8 percent. If the government, Bhutta said, claims to end load shedding by 2018, which is two years from now, then there should have been some indication to that relief. The duration of load shedding both in rural and urban areas is still 12 to 18 hours respectively, he added.
He further said that the site chosen for the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Project was not suitable. Bahawalpur’s climate is not appropriate for the project. “The temperature rises above 45 degrees Celsius, which does not produce the required amount of electricity, while the entire area is too dusty,” said Bhutta.
Responding to a question, if the government would be able to make all the power generation project functional in Punjab by 2018, Mahmood- ur-Rashid, the leader of opposition in Punjab Assembly raised doubts on the vision behind these projects.
“Each of the projects the Punjab government is setting up has flaws. Look at the Quaid-e-Azam Solar power project; it is hardly producing 100 MG. Now the government is trying to privatize it.”
He said even if the country produces surplus electricity, the problem of power breakdown would persist unless the government improved the transmission and distribution system.
“The priority of the government should have been to upgrade power transmission infrastructure, which is outdated,” said Rashid.
He insisted that the government should bring in legislation to force the business community to close down shopping centers by 8 o’clock at night. “If this small step is implemented we can save up to 1300 MW.”
When asked as to why the government has been unable to convince businesspersons to shut down markets in time, Rashid said because the government had lost its writ and because it had other priorities.
“In the financial year 2015-16, the government of Punjab allocated Rs 30 billion for energy. However, it spent only Rs 7 billion. The rest of the funds were diverted towards Orange Train Project and another road networks”, said Rashid.