Though the country is enduring acute power shortages and hours-long outages, the situation may prove to be a blessing in disguise for the civil bureaucracy to make money.
The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) is seeking services of Nandipur Power Company managing director on a hefty pay package to look after hydroelectric power projects, sources say.
This comes despite the fact that during his term the power plant was shut down soon after the start of operations because of technical reasons.
Captain (Retired) Muhammad Mehmood, a Grade-19 officer of Pakistan Administrative Service who has been decorated with Tamga-e-Imtiaz for his ‘untiring work’ for the Nandipur project, is receiving a project allowance that was 1,600% higher than permissible levels, they say.
The cost of the Nandipur project also went up to Rs59 billion compared to initial estimate of Rs23 billion and the plant would generate the most expensive electricity at Rs24 per unit by consuming high-speed diesel.
According to insiders, the country does not need such controversial projects that put a burden of billions of rupees on the national exchequer as a lot of unutilised production capacity is already available.
Four efficient power plants of over 800 megawatts, located in Lahore, are available, but they have remained either closed most of the time or have been operated on diesel in case of critical needs.
These power plants – Saif, Orient, Halmore and Sapphire – have been virtually closed since 2011 because of unavailability of gas and consumers are paying hefty capacity charges despite no power production.
“The government should have spent money on mega projects like Diamer Bhasha Dam to enhance hydroelectric power generation as well as increase water storage capacity,” an official suggested.
Work on the dam was stalled due to shortage of funds, but now Wapda was hoping to complete it in 2037 – a long delay that meant shelving of the project, he added.
Officials suggested that the government should have turned attention to the four power plants in Lahore with 54% efficiency, compared to 18-20% efficiency rate for old generation plants and captive power plants.
Wapda Chairman Zafar Mahmood has written a letter to the Ministry of Water and Power, seeking to hire services of Nandipur Project Director Muhammad Mehmood on a lucrative package.
“His package has not been set so far, however, it will be negotiated between Wapda and Mehmood,” a source said.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Wapda Chairman Mahmood confirmed that the government had been asked to hand over services of Nandipur Power Company’s chief to Wapda.
When his attention was drawn towards the shutdown of Nandipur project, he said it may not be true.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Water and Power also dismissed the talk that the Nandipur plant was closed because of technical reasons. “The plant was generating 83 megawatts off and on,” he said.
According to an official, the plant will produce 425MW if run on furnace oil and the output will go up to 525MW if operated on gas. It will be run on liquefied natural gas (LNG) in June 2015 after LNG supplies start arriving in the country.
Based on diesel, the plant will generate electricity at Rs24 per unit and on LNG the production will cost Rs17 per unit.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2014.
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