ISLAMABAD: On August 14, 2019, when the entire country was celebrating the 72nd Independence Day, a group of General Electric (GE) engineers with our partners were busy concluding the final testing of the 1,320MW China Power Hub Generation Company Limited’s power plant.
The beginning of commercial operations of this plant meant injection of ample power into the national grid to electrify over two million homes and industries.
It was the 18th Greenfield power generation project that GE had connected to the grid within the last seven years. In total, these projects have added over 8,300MW to the national grid since 2012, a record in itself, besides being the primary reason behind elimination of load-shedding in the country.
Seven years ago, Pakistan was going through a turbulent time with terror attacks taking place almost on a daily basis, a worsening economic situation coupled with regular turmoil and protests driven by energy shortages.
The lack of power availability was one of the biggest issues with rolling power outages of up to 18 hours every day in most parts of the country. There was little optimism and much less to hope for.
At that time, I had recently moved back to Pakistan, some say unwisely, after a long career abroad. In joining GE and leaving my previous employer, I had unquestionably entered a risky bet. The future of Pakistan was going to be better and GE had solutions for Pakistan’s problems.
From the very start, we zeroed our attention on the power crisis, the main obstacle to turning our nation’s fortunes.
Due to the power crisis, hundreds of mills had closed down, thousands of acres of land had been left unirrigated and millions of citizens were having sleepless nights. Addressing the crisis, however, required removing impediments and overcoming the inherent inertia with focus, imagination and perseverance.
From the windswept marsh lands of Gharo to the lush plains of Punjab, to desert plains of Dera Murad Jamali and mountains of Kashmir, GE and its partners have worked tirelessly, often 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, to bring new power supply to Pakistan.
Turbulence or insecurity, rain or floods, heat or cold, sandy or dirty roads failed to deter us from our mission. We have worked relentlessly to find solutions to address the challenges and take advantage of the available sources of energy like coal, gas, wind and hydro energy.
Over 500 engineers from GE and its associates in Pakistan worked unwaveringly with our international counterparts to bring the most advanced technology to Pakistan. They worked non-stop through weekends, holidays, Eid, Independence Day and regardless of family obligations.
We saw promise in the 180 billion tons of lignite reserves in the heart of Tharparkar.
At a time when many were skeptical, claiming this type of coal may not even ignite, we gathered over 3,000 different samples for testing and development and sent them to our research and development centres across Europe.
This helped us design a fit-for-purpose plant that could help the country utilise this indigenous resource to enhance energy independence and save foreign exchange reserves.
Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company and Engro Powergen Thar Private Limited power plant beginning operations in Thar earlier this year is a testament of our efforts and swells our hearts with pride.
Similarly, we brought flagship 9HA gas turbines when many thought this technology was too advanced for Pakistan. Their commissioning in record time, one of the fastest in the world for plants of this size, and their world record efficiency placed Pakistan on the world power map.
These plants, with better design and economies of scale, have saved the country an equivalent of about Rs90 billion in initial construction costs and over Rs100 billion in fuel savings per annum.
Throughout the execution of these projects, the GE teams encountered challenges but held fast and went beyond their obligations to make these projects functional. These plants now form the backbone of our national grid and are amongst the highest reliability plants in Pakistan, causing a meaningful difference in everyday lives of people by providing the cheapest reliable power.
People are often unsuccessful because they lack commitment. Competence is not an inherited trait but is the result of working hard and concentrating on bringing about the desired result.
No one succeeds overnight; failures do not happen overnight, either. Just like a person, who is fully committed, can find a solution to any problem, my teams at GE have given their blood, sweat and tears to help execute the dream of a self-sufficient Pakistan and build what many considered impossible.
No company has contributed in a more assertive and robust way to the development, diversification and efficiency of Pakistan’s energy mix than GE. We will continue to do so with our customers and partners in today’s ever-evolving energy landscape.
We have not overcome all the hurdles yet and this makes us move on with more energy and zeal. In the last seven years, we have reinvented the power industry in Pakistan – and we are not going to slow now!
The writer is the CEO and President of GE Pakistan and Central Asia and is based out of Islamabad
Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2019.