The government came under criticism on Friday for repeating the past mistakes as it was banking more on imported gas and coal-fired power plants rather than improving the energy mix with the help of new projects based on domestic resources.
The challenges pertaining to energy production and supply were taken up for discussion during a meeting of the Senate standing committee on water and power, chaired by Iqbal Zafar Jhagra.
The committee aired concern over the absence of Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif and Power Secretary Younis Daga from the proceedings of the meeting.
National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC) Board Chairman Viqar Zakria pointed out that no government had learnt lesson from the wrong policies followed in the past.
He recalled that coal-based power plants were rejected in 1986, but thermal power plants were allowed, which caused the problems the country was facing today. Now, he said, the government was setting up plants based on imported LNG and imported coal rather than focusing on local resources.
“It is difficult to predict the end of load-shedding; the demand of electricity is linked with the growth of economy and what will happen if the growth surges,” he asked.
“An LNG contract is being signed for 15 years; what will happen if the Arabs increase the price,” he cautioned, saying future generations would have to pay the higher cost.
He underlined the need of keeping 10% reserves of electricity to cope with any untoward situation, but the country had no such spare electricity. “We may be able to build 10% reserves by the year 2025,” he said.
Zakria further said the board of directors of NTDC had decided to conduct a study to assess the technical losses, where were standing at 3%.
The Senate committee chairman and its members expressed concern over the lack of interest shown by the federal minister of water and power and the power secretary, who had not attended the last three meetings, indicating the government’s lethargic response to the crippling outages.
Committee Chairman Iqbal Zafar Jhagra said the power minister and secretary should be present in the meeting to discuss the critical issues pertaining to load-shedding in the country.
“It is a waste of time,” Senator Nisar said while referring to the water and power minister’s absence.
He censured the NTDC for the technical losses suffered by the company and sought a logical justification. He also asked for explanation for the decision about setting up an imported coal-based power plant in Sahiwal, terming it unjustified.
Senator Nauman Wazir Khattak said they would hold the next meeting to review the implementation status of the committee’s recommendations.
He asked officials of the Ministry of Water and Power to present the next 30-year energy plan and called for stopping work on expensive solar and wind power plants. Instead, he said, the focus should be on plants based on domestic resources.
“The government wants to end load-shedding by 2018 but I do not see it happening,” he added.
Ministry of Water and Power’s Additional Secretary Umar Rasool assured the committee members that their recommendations would be implemented.
Power Secretary Younis Daga could not turn up because he was on leave, he said while responding to the criticism.
Furthermore, he said the government was paying attention to indigenous resources as three power plants with a cumulative generation capacity of 3,600 megawatts were being set up at the load centres of Punjab.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2015.
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