NEW DELHI/ ISLAMABAD:
If the Pakistani government has the political will to make a decision, electricity from India could start flowing into Pakistan in a matter of months, say top sources in India’s energy ministry.
Confirming that Pakistan has shown willingness to buy power from India, sources say that setting up the cross-border transmission line is a simple task, provided the two countries decide to facilitate the project.
Pakistan has reportedly sought 500 megawatt electricity from India through transmission lines from Indian Punjab into Lahore, but the details and modalities of the purchase and the techno-commercial and sovereign arrangements still have to be worked out.
Certainly, signals from both countries seem to indicate that this possibility is being seriously considered. Earlier this week, a power ministry delegation led by Indian Joint Secretary Rita Acharya, and accompanied by experts, visited Pakistan to discuss the broad contours of the proposed arrangement. Pakistan, which is reeling under a severe power crisis, plans to import 1,000 MW of power from India alone.
In another move Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir called on the Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Friday and discussed enhancement of trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, reported The Hindu.
Bashir is believed to have assured Sharma that Pakistan’s new government was keen on strengthening trade and economic relations with India, and that a decision on various issues would be taken in the next few months, according to the news report.
Earlier, a joint delegation of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) called on Bashir at the Pakistan High Commission.
New Delhi is said to be willing to help Pakistan in the energy sector and is exploring points which can be used to connect to the grid in Pakistan through a high-voltage direct current line, government sources said.
The sources added that the two states have to first develop transmission lines for power evacuation. But no timeline was specified for the completion of such a network. Talks between the two countries in this regard are ongoing.
With an installed capacity of over 211,000 MW, India certainly has electricity to spare. It also plans to generate another 88,000 MW of electricity by March 2017. Given India’s capacity and Pakistan’s dire need for energy, it seems that a deal may well be on the cards.
Nawaz wants to import power from neighbours
In a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday to review the worsening energy crisis, Nawaz directed the water and power ministry to explore opportunities to import electricity from neighboring countries without any delay. Sources told The Express Tribune that the PM laid particular emphasis on examining the possibility of importing energy from India on an urgent basis in order to improve Pakistan’s power situation.
The officials were directed by the premier to present a detailed report prior to 20th June. After the cabinet’s approval, a decision will be taken in principal to enter into negotiations with India for a formal electricity deal.
The PM also directed the ministry to develop a long-term energy security policy and officials told the premier that the short-, medium- and long-term policies would be completed this month. Along with this, an action plan is also being finalised for the recovery of power bills from defaulters.
According to the sources, “the meeting decided in principle to take tangible measures both for increasing generation and exploring alternate energy sources.” The meeting also underlined the need to reduce theft, rationalise the power tariff and minimise line losses.
Much of the meeting was taken up by discussions on how to curb the circular debt within 60 days, as per the commitment made in Ishaq Dar’s budget speech.
The main decisions taken in the meeting were to boost the national grid’s generation capacity and to focus on overhauling existing power plants. The PM directed that “providing special care and maximum relief to the common man must be the topmost consideration at the time of validation of the tariff.” The Prime Minister also directed that the provinces be taken on board in the consultative process.
It was also revealed that a professional project management office is being established in the Ministry which includes a policy and an implementation cell. The project management office shall supervise and review the progress on key policy decision and the energy implementation plan.
The meeting was attended by Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Information Minister Pervez Rashid, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and experts from the energy sector. It has also been decided that the meeting will be held weekly from now on.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2013.