The World Bank has begun preparing a pre-feasibility report to assess the viability of Pakistan importing power from India under the Pakistan Regional Trade Programme, a senior water ministry official told The Express Tribune.
The World Bank’s initiative comes in light of the request made by Pakistan to provide technical assistance to conduct a pre-feasibility study regarding the import of power and exploring interconnection options between the power systems of both nations.
The study will help Pakistan in identifying issues and important risks of the proposed interconnection and electricity trade. It will be evaluated by a committee of experts from the National Transmission Dispatch Company and the Ministry of Water and Power. The official said negotiations among various stakeholders regarding the possibility of interconnecting power grids are ongoing.
Pakistan had decided in April that it would import up to 500 megawatts of electricity from India with the World Bank agreeing to fund construction of the required infrastructure. “We will import 500MW from India initially. Import can be increased up to 5,000MW if our need so demands,” said the ministry official.
No transmission link currently exists between India and Pakistan. It was decided earlier that the countries will build a 45-kilometre, 220 kilovolt transmission line within six months of signing a formal agreement. The agreement will be valid for five years, after which it can be extended for another five years.
Indian media reported last year that there is general agreement between officials involved in negotiations regarding cross-border trade through high voltage direct current coupling. India is also exporting power to Bangladesh and reports said it was ready to take steps to ensure that both grids operate independently.
However, technical feasibility is not the only problem. The trade is largely dependent on political willingness. Indian newspaper The Hindu quoted an Indian government official as saying: “While India is also facing a domestic power crunch, the move to offer electricity to Pakistan is being seen as part of a broader strategic initiative.”
According to the Indian daily, it was India that wanted to import power from Pakistan more than a decade ago. In 1998-99, India considered a proposal for power imports, but talks were bogged down over issues relating to power tariff and no headway was made.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2012.