Tapping the black gold.
Pakistan has been experiencing worst power shortages as our policy makers did not bother investing in affordable and sustainable generation plants and fuel mix. Energy crisis and circular debt cannot be resolved till stakeholders firmly decide to settle them once and for all. Pakistan mainly relies on water, gas, oil and nuclear sources for electricity. Despite plenty of sunlight and wind, solar and wind energy options are being debated, and wind power turbines raised by a Turkish company produce only 7MW, though wind potential in Gharo corridor alone is several thousand megawatts. Despite being an agrarian country, we have also failed to use bio-gas for power generation. Sources reliability has been a problem. We have lagged behind in developing hydroelectric sources due to politics and lack of will. Apparently it got subverted by a strong oil lobby. Experts say a way out of the present crisis is to have a 'comprehensive, affordable and reliable energy policy'.
Most analysts agree that access to cheap energy is essential for modern economies. They note that 'threats to energy security include political instability of energy producing countries, manipulating energy supplies, competing over energy sources, attacking supply infrastructure and accidents, natural disasters, terrorism and reliance on foreign oil supply'. Unfortunately, Pakistan did not invest in building dams and reservoirs, despite having an agricultural economy. Even Kalabagh Dam was politicised in a way that pitted provinces against each other besides causing irreparable damage to economy. After Tarbela Dam, a major power related initiative was taken by Benazir Bhutto's government. Much criticized policy of IPPs has now proved to be power sector's mainstay. Besides IPPs, a major initiative was Thar coal. It was linked to construction of Keti Bandar port, 95km east of Karachi, by Gordon Wu Co and Consolidated Electric Power Asia Ltd.
Initial work on developing the harbor and a 1,320MW power plant had commenced at Keti Bandar as part of a $1.8bn project. This far sighted decision was subsequently bulldozed by Nawaz Sharif government, thus depriving the nation of thousands of megawatts, due to which we suffer today, specially as hydro power is being affected by shortage of water in reservoirs. Studies have shown that use of coal will rise to 60% by 2030 worldwide. Thar reserves appear to be mainstay of Pakistan's future needs. These reserves (175 billion tons) are the seventh largest in the world, with a potential of generating 100,000MW over two centuries. Urgency in tapping local, sustainable and affordable power sources is manifested by Underground Gasification Project, planned by nuclear scientist Dr Samar Mubarakmand. It will not only let Pakistan develop a new and environment friendly process and technology, but will also enable us to employ coal reserves on a fast track basis.
As indigenisation of fuel for power generation is of prime importance, also as part of a good energy plan, we would also have to convert existing generation from oil and gas to coal. Other sources viz. wind and sun, would also have to be quickly considered in an integrated energy plan.