Pakistan faces chronic power shortages due to rapid growth in demand for electricity. Power outages increased significantly due to the widening gap between supply and demand over the past three years. It has adversely affected the industrial output and economic growth of the country. The energy statistics of Pakistan shows that around 50 percent of the need is met by the indigenous gas production and 29 percent by domestic and imported oil and 11 percent by hydro-electricity. The country’s annual energy requirements are expected to more than double to 177 million tons of oil equivalent by the year 2020. The country’s indigenous energy resources are still untapped and not helping the country to meet its pressing energy needs.
China is investing in Pakistan’s energy sector in a big way to overcome the worst energy crisis, the country is facing today. The two countries have signed 14 deals to generate 10,400 megawatts (MW) of electricity immediately, while more projects with a combined generation capacity of 6,445MW, would be completed in the second phase. The energy projects approved by the Chinese government include Port Qasim (coal) that would generate 1,320MW, Sukki Kanari (hydropower) 870MW, Sahiwal (coal) 1,320MW, Engro Thar (coal) 660MW, Muzaffargarh (coal) 1,320MW, Gwadar (coal) 300MW, Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park 1,000MW, United Energy (wind) 100MW, Dawood (wind) 50MW, Sachal (wind) 50MW, Sunnec (wind) 50MW, Rahim Yar Khan (coal) 1,320MW, SSRL Thar (coal) 1,320MW and Karot (hydropower) 720MW. The short-term projects will be put into operation in next two to three years.
Hydroelectric power is a renewable form of energy, as clean electricity can be generated constantly so long as sufficient water is available. Pakistan has a hydropower potential of more than 40,000MW, while it has managed to tap only 6,500MW.
In April 2011, the state-owned China Three Gorges Project Corporation (CTGPC) signed an agreement for the construction of a 720MW hydropower project at Karot bordering Punjab and Azad Kashmir at a cost of $1.2 billion. Karot Dam site is located on Kahuta-Kotli Road, nearly 68 Km from Rawalpindi in Punjab province. The project has been proposed on the River Jhelum, 74 Km upstream of Mangla Dam. The CTGPC is the operator of Three Gorges dam on Yangtze River, which is one of the biggest hydropower-complex projects in the world.
The two countries have coordination on projects such as Thar coal-fired power plants, Sahiwal coal-fired power. Pakistan is expected to generate more than 10,000 megawatt electricity from coal resources with the help of China.
Thar coal field in Sindh province is bestowed with 175 billion tons of lignite coal, which can fuel power generation of over 100,000 megawatts for more than two centuries. The crucial issue of tariff rate on power generation has so far halted the development of coal-based power plants in Thar coalfield. Extending over 9,000 square kilometers, Thar coalfield is the largest untapped coal resource in the country. In 1992, Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP) discovered coal deposits worth 175-185 billion tons of lignite in Thar. In Pakistan, the provincial governments do not have the authority to decide the tariff rate on power generation from coal-fired power plants and they can only facilitate the investor companies and provide them the essential logistics. National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) decides tariff rate while Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) is responsible for distribution of electricity in Pakistan. Sindh has been accusing the federal agencies of sabotaging investment prospects in its Thar coal field.
Islamabad has realized the need to shift towards its renewable sources such as water, wind and sunlight and reduce the dependency on conventional thermal based generation facility owing to unstable prices and supply of oil and gas across the globe. China has also agreed to invest in solar and wind projects in Pakistan. China-aided energy projects from renewable sources as water, solar, hydel and wind would be started in all the provinces, including FATA and Azad Kashmir. The completion of energy projects initiated with China’s cooperation would produce thousands of mega-watts of additional electricity.
Most of the wind resources are located either along the sea coast lines or on the mountains. Windmill is the latest technology of producing low cost electricity. Windmills can be used to pump water for irrigation and grinding grain in agricultural fields. Windmills prove cheaper source of energy than coal and thermal based sources of electricity. Wind power system is currently in operation in China. At least 100 wind power turbines may be installed in the remote coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan provinces. Sindh has a great potential in the field of wind energy and up to now 50,000MW has been identified in the Jhimpir Gharo Wind Corridor. More than 40 companies are actively engaged in the province to develop 3,000MW power through wind.
Energy project in Jhimpir
The government of Sindh has allotted 680 acres of land to Sachal Energy (Pvt) Ltd for a period of 30 years to establish 49.5MW wind energy project at Jhimpir, Sindh. The cost of the project is $133 million. M/s Sachal Energy (Pvt) Limited is establishing a 49.5MW Wind Energy project at Jhimpir, district Thatta. It has awarded the EPC contract to M/s Hyro China Xiebi, a Chinese Company engaged in the wind power development.
Under the deal, the company would supply 49.5MW power to the national grid for a period of 30 years up to 2044 and will provide 136 Gega Watt Hours to the national grid. The project will contribute international commitments of the government to reduce the environmental degradation of the region. The project is included as one of top priority project for Pakistan China Economic Corridor. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) is financing the project.
In Punjab, the first phase of Bahawalpur 100MW solar power project has been completed, while the second phase of 900MW solar project has been launched. Dawood 50MW and Sachal 50MW wind farms have also been launched. Solar thermal power plants produce electricity in much the same way as conventional power station. The difference is that they obtain their energy input by concentrating solar radiation and converting it to high temperature steam or gas to drive a turbine or engine. Solar power plants can simultaneously produce electricity, provide cooling by means of an absorption chiller, generate industrial processing steam and produce drinking water with a sea water desalination plant.
From economic point of view, the solar thermal power plants will reduce the dependency on fossil fuels in remote areas. The operation and maintenance cost is nominal, compared to conventional power plants. Moreover, these plants will also avoid the risk of future electricity cost escalation. They are not only emissions-free in nature, but are ideally suited to reduce green house gases and other pollutants.