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Energy report points at faults in Pakistani systems

Efficiency of thermal power plants in Pakistan is abnormally low, consuming high quantity of fuel to generate per unit electricity, which is a fundamental issue in Pakistan’s energy sector, a comprehensive report prepared by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) said.

The 143-page report titled “Pakistan Power Sector Outlook: Appraisal of the Karachi Electricity Supply Company (KESC) in Post Privatization Period” authored by SDPI Advisor Engineer Arshad H Abbasi analyzed the energy crisis in Pakistan and presents its possible solutions.

It said that the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the study are equally applicable to all thermal power plants of Pakistan, which, consuming furnace oil and gas, are capable of generating almost 70% of electricity. The report suggested that enhancing fuel efficiency (per unit generation) would not only help produce more electricity from the available fuel, but also help reduce power prices by bringing down the cost of production at cheaper rate. At the same time, achieving this efficiency would result in saving the scarce fiscal resources that the government spends on subsidizing the power sector.

The study said that in Pakistan, electricity generation from renewable sources constitutes 32.8% of total power production. A major bulk of this share comes from hydropower while other renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal have negligible contribution.

This has subsequently not only led Pakistan towards an unprecedented energy crisis but has negatively affected its economic growth. The share of natural gas and oil in Pakistan’s energy mix are 29% and 35% respectively. This heavy dependency on fossil fuels has been causing rapid depletion of Pakistan’s gas reserves, an ever-growing circular debt and enormous price hikes of electricity.

The report said the generation fleet within the KESC is wholly dependent on fossil fuels and the prevalent crisis has further strained its performance and increased the cost of production. The total cost of fuel as per June 2011 is estimated to be Rs61130.296m with Rs1,843.796m on gas and Rs59,286.5m furnace oil.

The study said that the increased dependency on fossil fuel is the fundamental cause of present energy crisis and the foremost hindrance towards financial sustainability. In this present crisis situation, the most sustainable and best option is cheap and green hydroelectricity. Especially in the scenario, when Pakistan is planning to import hydroelectricity from Tajikistan. Initial feasibility was provided supply of 5.5 billion units of electricity per year to Pakistan from Tajikistan’s Rogun Dam, which is at the initial stage of construction, through a 700 km high voltage transmission line. This project technically and financially is not viable. However, the National Electricity Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) and water and power ministry never pay head to the original plan to augment hydropower and then transmit it to the KESC system, which was envisaged when Tarbela Dam was planned in the mid sixties.

The report said line losses in Pakistan have been considerably higher compared with various countries across the globe. Overall 19% line losses have been reported in Pakistan since 2010. This percentage is quite alarming being far above those of Israel, Iraq, Sri Lanka etc. Despite civil disturbances, Iraq and Israel have managed to lower their line losses. Even Argentina has cut down its line losses from 24% in 1992 to 11% in 2007.

Taking about alternate energy resources, the report said, the wind energy map development by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) USA in collaboration with the USAID has indicated a potential of 346,000MW in Pakistan.

The Gharo-Keti Bandar wind corridor spreading 60km along the coastline of Sindh and more than 170km deep towards the land alone has a potential of some 50,000MW. According to the 2002 power policy, the target was to add 500MW by 2010 under a medium-term plan. Additionally, the water and power ministry announced various incentives for wind IPPs (independent power projects) in the renewable energy policy 2006. However, so far only 6MW of power generated from wind turbines has been added, which is only 1.2 % of the set target.

The report recommended that the Nepra act of 1997 needs immediate amendment; performance indictors of DISCOS (distribution companies) should be explicitly redefined which will transform Nepra into a vibrant regulator. It said maintenance of all distribution transformers and pole-mounted substations appears to be inadequate. The transformers are generally highly loaded and burn out at a very high rate of 12% annually. KESC should increase load monitoring and undertake preventive maintenance to achieve lower operating and maintenance costs through reduction in transformer rebuilds and feeder faults.

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