Solution to energy crisis lies in short, long-term measures

Former finance minister says Kalabagh Dam can produce 4,000MW.

Our Correspondent April 28, 2012


Being dissatisfied with government’s efforts to resolve the energy crisis, experts stress that the solution lies in taking short and long-term measures simultaneously as the energy shortage could lead to food insecurity.

The experts were sharing their views at a private sector energy conference, organised by the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) here on Saturday under the ongoing Lahore Shopping Festival. The conference focused on cheaper modes of electricity rather than expensive options.

Senator Ishaq Dar, a PML-N leader, hit out at the present and past planners for committing mistakes by ignoring the critical energy sector and called for focusing on energy production. He said 500 textile units had closed down their operations due to the energy shortage, adding lack of political will aggravated the problem as around 5,000 megawatts of electricity could easily be saved by giving attention to the issue.

Giving short-term solutions, he underlined the need for pursuing projects of Nandipur and Chechu Ki Malian, which would add around 950MW of electricity. Sugarcane waste can also be used to produce 1,500MW.

Former finance minister Dr Salman Shah termed it necessary for the power sector to be deregulated to solve the energy crisis. He quoted the example of telecommunications, which was giving huge revenue to the government and said the single-buyer model should be changed now as it had failed to ensure cheaper electricity.

He said Kalabagh Dam was the only short-term option to overcome the energy crisis and revive the stagnant economy. It was a feasible project, which could be constructed in just four years and produce 4,000 megawatts at a cheaper rate of Rs1.5 per unit, he said.

Shah blamed the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award for the energy crisis, saying the award actually bankrupt the central government. The 1973 Constitution declared Pakistan as a single market and provinces had right of royalty over natural resources but the resources should be equally distributed all over the country, he added.

Former Wapda Chairman Tariq Hameed said small projects of up to 500MW would not address the problem and underlined the need for initiating projects that could give a quantum jump to power generation. This, he added, could be achieved by exploiting the hydroelectric potential. In this regard, detailed studies of Kalabagh Dam (3,600MW), Bhasha Dam (4,600MW), Dasu Dam (3,000MW) and Bunji Dam (7,000MW) have already been prepared.

“Electricity demand is increasing by 8% per annum, but during the past four years we have not been able to plug the supply-demand gap, which is widening.” In order to ensure sustained supplies, the government should start at least two mega hydropower projects immediately, he suggested.

Hameed put per capita water availability at 1,000 cubic metres, which would fall below that level and place the country among water-starved nations.

Earlier, in his opening remarks, LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh said the energy crisis was disrupting the economic and social fabric of the country, particularly that of Punjab. “It is causing business closure and unemployment. Income, profitability and competitiveness are also eroding and energy insecurity is growing,” he said.

Independent Power Producers Advisory Council Chairman Abdullah Yousaf voiced concern over swelling circular debt, which stood at around Rs365 billion. “It is increasing by Rs1 billion per day,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2012.


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