Govt eyes solar power as solution to electricity crisis

Power minister says PM Shehbaz will unveil comprehensive policy on August 1

Zafar Bhutta July 08, 2022


Power Minister Engineer Khurram Dastgir has announced that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will unveil a new comprehensive solar energy policy on August 1 to curb the prolonged power outages and rein in rising electricity prices.

Addressing a news conference on Thursday, the minister stated that the prime minister received a comprehensive initial briefing on solar energy.

In accordance with the policy, he said, seven solar plants would be installed initially on the sites of the existing thermal power plants, where land and transmission lines already existed for electricity.

He said that the contract for the installation of solar power plants would be awarded to the lowest bidder after an open bidding process, adding that there was a proposal under consideration to install 1MW solar plants in small feeder areas across the country, which would help generate 2,000MW of electricity in the first phase.

“All government offices and buildings will be converted to solar energy, and the Parliament House will serve as the model,” he said, adding that the Parliament House saved millions of rupees annually in terms of electricity.

He stated that tube wells would also be converted to solar energy nationwide. Diesel-powered tube wells in Balochistan would receive top priority.

Dastgir said that the plan also included the distribution of one to three kilowatts solar panel modules to residential customers, whose cost would be recouped through electricity bills.

The minister hoped that all of these projects would add 7,000MW to 10,000MW of electricity to the national grid system before next summer.

Read Sindh govt plans to launch floating solar power project

According to him, Tarbela dam's hydel electricity production increased further due to an increase in water inflow, and it now exceeded 3,800MW. He added that following maintenance, the Lucky Coal Power Plant also resumed operation.
Upon completion of its refuelling before Eid, the K-2 nuclear power plant would also begin supplying 1,100MW to the national grid, he added.

The minister also claimed that load-shedding would decrease significantly in the coming days. In large and important cities, less load management had been implemented, he added.

To a question, he stated that the tunnel damage at the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project was being evaluated.
To another question, he stated that transmission lines were being installed in the Makran Division in addition to the installation of solar power plants in Makran's coastal regions.

Solar energy potential is abundant in Panjgur and other regions of Balochistan, whereas the Jhimpir (Sindh) corridor produces between 600MW to 700MW of wind energy.

To the third question, the minister stated that the 1,214MW Shanghai Electric Thar Coal project, which had been delayed by the previous PTI government, would also begin production during the current fiscal year.

Gas crisis to worsen

Separately, addressing a news conference, Minister of State for Petroleum Musadik Malik said suppliers were not responding to Pakistan’s tender for spot LNG supply as once again the country had received no bids for 1O cargoes.

Musadik said that the Petroleum Division submitted a framework for providing relief to the poor gas consumers by not increasing their gas tariff.

On the LNG spot purchases, the minister said that they were constantly issuing tenders but no one was participating.
“Suppliers are not responding and if one comes by mistake, they are bidding at $40 per MMBTU.

“Today, we have opened bids for the supply of 10 LNG cargoes, but no one responded to it. Who will pick LNG at such a high prices, who will bear the burden,” the minister asked.

Musadik said that since the long-term agreement was not signed by the PTI government, now the much-needed gas was not available in the country, even at an increased price, despite frequent tendering in the international market.

“Now, I am holding meetings with delegations from the countries, for providing LNG at term contract, but they are saying why you didn’t come earlier or where were you when the Europeans were signing the term contracts,” the minister added.

He said that it was unfortunate that the previous government did not procure LNG when it was available at the reduced rate of $4 per MMBTU two years ago, which now climbed to $40. It means that the LNG cargo which was available at $12.5 million two years ago was now costing around $138 million. The PTI government did not pay any attention towards purchasing the commodity at cheaper price, he said.


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