The promise of power


We hear plenty of those


The federal government has stated on several occasions that it shall produce 10,000 MW of extra power and completely end load shedding in Pakistan before the 2018 elections, i.e. March 2018. The Prime Minister has said so on record, as has his brother the Chief Minister of Punjab, so has the minister in charge of planning and development Mr Ehsan Iqbal. Both the Minister for Water and Power and his deputy and Minister of state for water and power have also assured us of the same. So given the gravitas of the personnel we would expect that this to be true statement.

But the fact say otherwise, based on follow up of the projects that had been identified as the ones that if completed would indeed provide an additional 10,000 MW of power one realises that we would be lucky if a third of them or 3,000 MW are actually on line by the appointed date. Admittedly the duration for load shedding should reduce but that has as much to do with the decrease in prices of oil as it due to the efforts of the PML-N government.

The 10,000 MW were composed of the three main components, 3,600 MW of LNG based plants in Punjab, 2,500 MW of coal fired plants in Karachi and Sahiwal, 2,700 MW of legacy hydel power projects at Tarbela and Neelum Jehlum, 700 MW of Nuclear plants and 500 MW of renewable wind and solar plants.

Three LNG plants with a capacity of 1,200 MW each were inaugurated in October 2015 these are located at (Bhikki district Sheikhapura, Balloki district Kasur and Havelli Bhadar Shah district Jhang.) of these two Bhikki and Baloki seem to be on track to be in operation by March 2018, but only with respect to the open cycle aspect or 900 MW each so a total of 1,800 MW from LNG maybe expected. This is despite the brouhaha about LNG being the panacea for all ills and that it shall save the country billions, what’s ignored is that the deal actually negotiated by our ministry of Oil and Gas has disadvantaged us and according to the chairman of NEPRA is more expensive than the baneful furnace oil.

Then there the two plants fired on imported coal, supposedly producing another 2,500 MW. Construction has started at both Sahiwal and Bin Qasim. The Bin Qasim one should produce around 600 MW (or half its purported capacity) even the Sahiwal one may be ready but the required rail infrastructure to transport the coal upcountry is far from complete so all we will get is the 600 odd MW of power.

Then there were the two legacy hydel projects that had been started by the previous governments but inherited by this one, 980 MW at Neelum Jehlum and 1,680 MW for the Tarbela fourth hydel power extension project. Whereas Neelum Jhelum may be ready (it was started in the Musharaf era) but the Tarbela project was put on an accelerated schedule that compromised project safety resulting in a collapse of shuttering and loss of Chinese and Pakistani lives, with a result that it is unlikely that this will be operational before end 2018 .Even if they are ready, they will not be producing much power before July as that is when the flows in the river are sufficient to generate energy. So let’s say 800 MW may be in the grid by election time on account of hydel power.

Then there are the two Nuclear projects in Karachi with a total capacity of 700 MW, given that there has been no ground breaking to-date, and that Nuclear Power plants typically take ten years to construct we will be lucky if these a producing power by 2028 let alone 2018.

Of the renewables there has not been much publicity so one can assume that they died a natural death but given that at least two wind power project with a capacity of 300 MW that had been started earlier would be on line lets tot up another 300 MW on that account

So the sum total of all the numerous television advertising and breast beating on solving the energy crisis is that we will get 3,000 odd MW of very expensive power. In other words sufficient power to address less than half the current shortfall. So much for the tall claims.

What will actually happen more as a gamesmanship than actual solution is a reduction in load shedding during the winter month when the demand is low due to absence of power demand due to air-conditioning requirements. But this reduction in load shedding could have happened last winter but it didn’t as WAPDA only utilised 10-15% capacity in some of its thermal power stations at the instruction of the government, so that when these plants’ utilisation does increase the government can take all the credit.

That governments’ are economical with the truth is not new but in a democratic system it is the job of the opposition to highlight these, it is a sign if the impotency of the opposition parties and their lack of focus that the government keeps getting away with this. Another interesting coincidence is that of this government’s initiated power projects, the only ones that will actually go on stream are the ones that have direct links with facilitators that are close to the center of power.