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Sindh wants ‘clear-cut’ policy on Thar coal

The Sindh government has urged the Centre to chalk out a “clear-cut” policy on using Thar coal reserves for power generation so that investment could be attracted for this purpose.

At the recent 21st meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI), Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah stressed the need for an elaborate power policy for the coal reserves so that the ongoing energy crisis could be overcome.

During the meeting, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif supported his Sindh counterpart’s point of view and added a clear-cut power policy was also needed for sugar mills.

Sharif pointed out that there were 74 sugar mills in the country and could generate about 2,000MW power through biogas in case the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) came up with an “attractive” upfront tariff.

Both provinces wanted a comprehensive power policy that also determined the upfront tariffs for different energy sources including biogas, solar and coal.

The two chief ministers were of the view that the lack of upfront tariffs for these energy sources was impeding investment in these sectors and becoming detrimental to the government’s efforts to overcome the energy crisis.

The Punjab chief minister also complained that Nepra was not fulfilling its responsibility to this effect.

 Nepra’s functioning

The CCI was informed that a sub-committee led by Defence Minister Naveed Qamar was formed to examine the functioning of Nepra within the Constitution.

The body held a series of meetings to ascertain the facts and submitted its report, but the debate on it was deferred in the earlier meeting of the CCI.

Qamar stated that the committee had formulated a report after “thorough deliberations” with all stakeholders and examining the position in the light of Article 157 (2) of the Constitution.

The defence minister claimed that the functioning of Nepra according to its Act was not a violation of the provisions of the Constitution.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Amir Haider Hoti regretted that it took the committee two years to finalise its report. While supporting the “recommendations”, Hoti expressed certain reservations over the report’s findings. The Punjab chief secretary also agreed with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister.

The water and power secretary informed the forum that the draft of the Electricity Act had been prepared in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and circulated to the stakeholders in order to implement the recommendations.

Qamar argued that these were two distinct issues and could be considered separately.

Electricity Act

All the members of the committee underlined the importance of expediting the process of finalising the Electricity Act.

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf endorsed their views and directed Nepra to work on determining the upfront tariffs instead of waiting for applications from prospective investors.

He also suggested that Nepra should have an in-house capability and expertise to determine the upfront tariffs for running power plants on coal, wind, solar, bio-gas, biogas, oil etc.

The prime minister also stressed the need for preparing tariffs that provided incentives to investors.

The CCI considered the summary moved by Cabinet Division on the functioning of Nepra and approved the report of the committee. It directed the water and power ministry to expedite the process of preparing the Electricity Act.

The forum also directed the water and power secretary to pursue Nepra for finalising the upfront tariffs for biogas, solar and coal power generation.

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