Saman ZulfiqarSaturday, August 20, 2011 - To overcome the acute energy crisis in Pakistan, Water and Power Minister Syed Naveed Qamar visited China to discuss the energy problems of Pakistan. He chaired the first Pakistan-China Joint Energy Working Group (JEWG) meeting held in Beijing on August 1-2, 2011. The decision to convene the JEWG meetings was taken in the joint statement during Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Pakistan last year. The Minister held talks with Chinese officials and proposed 19 new energy projects to Chinese Companies. Both sides agreed to enhance cooperation in the field of conventional energy, renewable energy and civil nuclear energy.
Given the significance of renewable energy, China tries to dominate the renewable energy technologies from solar panels to wind turbines to constructing huge hydro-projects. Pakistan has considerable renewable energy potential such as hydro, wind and solar but this resource potential has not been utilized fully due to resource constraints and politicization of projects of national interests such as Kalabagh Dam that depicts the real picture of political uncertainties in Pakistan.
Due consideration is being given to hydropower plants that produce about 24 percent of the world’s electricity and supply more than one billion people with power. Indus River system alone has 35,000 MW power potential. The prospects for Pak-China cooperation in hydro-power projects are bright as the Chairman of China Three Gorges Project Corporation (CTGPC) a state owned enterprise and China’s largest hydropower developer had already offered financial and technical assistance to develop hydro and wind power projects in Pakistan.
These ongoing projects include Karot, Taunsa, Kohala and Bunji hydro-power projects. Bunji dam will be constructed some 83km from Gilgit on Skardu Road. After completion it will generate 7200 MW electricity. The government of Pakistan has signed an agreement with China for the construction of the dam in 2009. Second important project has been Taunsa hydroelectric project in Punjab that will generate 120 MW electricity. Another proposed project is Kohala hydro-power project in district Muzaffarabad that will have capability to generate 1100 MW electricity. Karot hydro-power project that will generate 720 MW electricity will be completed in four years time. In addition to above mentioned hydro projects deliberations have been continued on some other hydro projects. Pakistan has been currently facing 6,000 megawatts power deficit which may grow further but the investment in hydro-power projects could add 10,000 MW to Pakistan’s main grid over the next 10 years. China has developed expertise in coal energy and nearly 80 % of its electricity comes from coal. India is generating 75 percent of its electricity by using coal while Pakistan is generating 0.3 percent electricity from coal. Pakistan is among some of the states having large coal reserves in the world and has potential to generate electricity from coal. Pakistan has potential to develop wind power. The wind corridor in the coastal area of Sindh has the capacity to generate 50,000 MW electricity. India presents a good example of a country that is utilizing wind energy and has added its electricity generation capacity. China has become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines. China has offered help in the construction of 50 MW wind power project in Jhampir (Sindh) that is to be completed in 2012. Moreover, China has planned to invest in 300 MW solar power projects in Pakistan.
As far as nuclear energy is concerned Pakistan has time and again asked United States to negotiate similar Civilian Nuclear Agreement as it had signed with India. Pakistan has a small nuclear power program with 725 MWe capacity and now plans to increase it substantially. Pakistan and China have been cooperating in the field of civilian nuclear energy.
Pakistan’s serious energy crisis has negative impact on all sectors of economy. It is not just the economic growth that has been hampered by frequent power outages but shutting down of industries have also increased the unemployment. The prevailing energy crisis in the country has been the result of shortsightedness of policies. It was only the decade of 1960 and 1970 when Tarbela and Mangla Dams were put into operation. Subsequent governments in Pakistan have always been lacking the goal oriented energy policies. To avert the energy crisis in 1990s, the government decided to opt for thermal power generation through Independent Power Producers (IPPs). IPPs were operating on furnace oil that enhanced the power generation capacity by more than 5,000 MW but it did cost the country dearly. During the last ten years of previous government not a single unit has been added to national grid. Consequently the gap between demand and supply widened and the current government came to power inheriting a power deficit of more than 5,000 MW. The government also tried to fill in the gap by installing Rental Power Plants. These Rental Power Plants are against the spirit of sustainability and only provide short term and temporary solution to the problem. This year Pakistan and China are celebrating 60th anniversary of their friendship and like other fields Pak-China energy cooperation would be mutually beneficial and would prove the best solution to energy problems in Pakistan.
—The writer is a Researcher at Islamabad Policy Research Institute.