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What crisis?

One purpose of this article is to highlight the importance of embracing renewable wind energy as a solution to our energy crisis. The second purpose is to highlight how core competencies in existing world-class institutions such as the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Heavy Electrical Complex, and Heavy Mechanical Complex can be exploited to permanently eradicate the energy crisis.

Hardly a day goes by without a new ‘keen investor’ stepping forward with offers or an MoU being hastily inked for new coal-fired power plants or conversion to coal of existing power plants. The latest to enter this overcrowded arena are the Russians. The latest MoU has been between the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) and China Power International Holding (CPIH) and Sino-Sindh Resources (SSR) to develop 6000MW of Thar coal-based power plants over a period of ten years (ten long years!).

In addition, we are constantly reminded that the first few years of coal supply would need to be imported while the Thar coal infrastructure is developed. Since large hydroelectric and nuclear power projects take just as long, if not even longer, it is blindingly obvious that conventional coal, hydro and nuclear power projects are not going to solve the energy crisis in the lifetime of the current government. Even the most recent USAID upgradation grant of $150m to add 70MW to the existing Mangla hydel power station will not be “completed within five years”.

Alternative renewable energy provides both short and long-term solutions — in terms of lower cost of generation and reduced time to market. Pakistan’s energy crisis can be resolved within two to three years by renewable wind energy alone. In February 2013 Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that the cost of generating electricity from new wind farms was already cheaper than new coal or gas plants. The downward trend will continue as larger and more efficient multi-megawatt turbines are mass-produced.

The UK, an exporter of natural gas and oil, is expected to exceed its legal commitment to meeting 15 percent of its energy demand from renewable sources by 2020. Recent offshore wind farm projects in the UK were completed within four years. The Triton Knoll project for 1,200MW at a cost of $5.6bn is underway as the largest offshore wind farm project in the world.

Within a short span of eight years (2004-12), the UK increased its wind energy capacity ten-fold to over 8000MW at an average $2.1m/MW at a time when it was also busy decommissioning its coal-powered plants. To help create jobs, the UK government ‘local spend’ policies have ensured that nearly 50 percent of the project spend is local. In India, government subsidies have propelled the installed capacity of wind power in India to 20000MW, with 17000MW being installed during the past one decade!

In Pakistan, strategically innovative private sector enterprises such as the Fauji Fertilizer Company Energy Limited (FFCEL) have caught on and started to exploit the potential 150000MW of wind energy resources in Pakistan. The FFCEL has already commissioned its first 50MW wind energy farm at Jhimpir within 24 months at a total cost of $128m or $2.5m/MW. It is currently in the process of achieving financial close for two further wind projects (of 50MWs each at a total cost of $251m) which will be fully operational within just 15 months.

In Pakistan, ‘the government plans to achieve up to 2500MW from wind energy by the end of 2015’ and ‘create jobs’. While the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) continues to drag its feet, both objectives look ambitious. Without mandating policies of minimum local spend to promote local manufacturing, R&D and creation of local jobs, the objectives remain meaningless. In just 14 years, India’s Suzlon corporation has gone from nothing to becoming the world’s fifth largest wind turbine supplier with a workforce of 13,000 and over 21500MW of wind energy capacity.

The wind turbine market is projected to exceed $100B+ by 2016 and currently suffers from insufficient worldwide capacity. The global wind turbine growth rate of 25 percent CAGR over the last five years is projected to continue and exceed 2M MW capacity by 2030. In light of its vision of diversification, Fauji Foundation is ideally positioned.

The combined core competencies of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, the Heavy Electrical Complex, and the Heavy Mechanical Complex are capable of being strategically exploited to a) develop an indigenous commercial wind turbine innovation, development, manufacturing capacity within 12 months; b) make Pakistan the leader within developing countries in advanced wind turbine technology and its single largest exporter within two to three years; and c) install wind energy generation capacity of 10000 MW within five years, permanently eradicate the energy crisis, massively reduce the fossil fuel import bills, and supply low-cost energy to all.

The solution is simple: adopt a reduced cost and time-to-market way out to our energy crisis.

The writer is a Sloan Fellow of London Business School and former Spanish Representative on the $100B+ Eurofighter project. Email: shabirkhan75a@hotmail.com

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