ISLAMABAD: Looking eastward for a solution to the country’s crippling energy woes, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to request China’s help for a number of projects when he meets his counterpart Li Keqiang in Beijing on July 4.
Some of the items on the premier’s request list include a 1,100MW nuclear power plant, release of a $448 million loan for the 969MW Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project and setting up of an oil refinery at Gwadar port.
Sources reveal that Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) will build the $9.5 billion power plant – which will be called Karachi Coastal Power.
The government has already allocated Rs10 billion in the current financial year for the plant. In addition, the government is expected to seek another Rs65 billion in additional foreign lending meant to provide the required financial impetus to the project.
China has three state-owned corporations that can own and operate nuclear power plants including China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Company (CGNPC) and China Power Investment Corporation (CPIC).
CGNPC currently operates four nuclear power plants of 3,758MW in China and is also associated with 16 other under-construction projects having capacity of 25,000MW.
Pakistan is now seeking to expand its nuclear power generation under the new Energy Security Action Plan. The plan envisions that by 2030, the share of nuclear power in electricity production will be increased by installing 8,800MW nuclear power plants by 2030.
At present, Pakistan has two nuclear power plants of 320MW power generation capacity each at Chashma, built with Chinese assistance.
Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project
During the previous government, China had withheld a $440-million-loan committed for Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project after the Supreme Court had cancelled the Islamabad Safe City Project contract awarded to a Chinese company. “However, now the Chinese government has cleared the loan and Pakistan has signed a loan agreement with the Exim Bank of China amounting to $448 million,” an official close to the development said.
The source revealed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would ask his Chinese counterpart to expedite release of $448 million loan for timely completion of the project.
The project cost has already jumped up by 225 per cent to Rs274.8 billion.
Neelum-Jhelum is a strategic hydropower project, initiated by the government to secure water rights over the Neelum River, where India is also constructing the Kishanganga Dam.
The government will also look to revive the defunct Coastal Oil Refinery Project at Gwadar, which had been shelved by China in 2009-10 after operations of Gwadar port were awarded to Singapore Port Authority (SPA). A global recession added fuel-to-fire by providing another reason to shelve the project.
The proposed Coastal Oil Refinery was part of China’s plan to invest $12 billion in multiple projects in Pakistan. The refinery was designed to reach a daily output of 60,000 barrels crude oil.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2013.