Islamabad: The primary reason for persistent loadshedding and energy crisis in the country has been the non-judicious energy policy of the mid-nineties that relied heavily on expensive thermal power generation as opposed to lower cost options.
This was stated by Sartaj Aziz, former Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission at the International Workshop on “Options for the Energy Mix; Issues of Sustainability and Costs”, organised by COMSTECH.
Mr. Aziz attributed the origins of Pakistan’s energy crisis to the policy of encouraging IPPs after 1994 who operated on imported furnace oil. This changed the primary source of electricity generation from 50% each of thermal and hydel to one of 70:30 in summer and 80:20 in winter.
The cost of power generation went up to 1-16 cents per unit, while WAPDA was selling electricity at 8-9 cents. The huge subsidy that was payable to the IPPs could not be paid in time leading to a huge circular debt and long hours of loadshedding.
The workshop is being conducted at the COMSTECH Secretariat and includes a large number of local and foreign participants from academia, power sector and industry, as well as experts from Turkey, Australia, China, Malaysia, Uganda, Nigeria and Bangladesh.
Mr. Aziz outlined the measures undertaken by the previous government to address the issue by adding power plants based on lower cost imported coal and LNG and local natural gas, and initiating work on several hydel projects including Tarbela extension, as well as Dasu and Diamer Bhasha.
These initiatives he said have increased power generation capacity from 22,000MW in 2013 to 29,500 in 2018.
The keynote speaker of the Opening Session, Dr. Shaukat Hameed Khan, Coordinator General of COMSTECH, presented a comprehensive and broad ranging review of the global energy transition highlighting initiatives to decrease reliance on conventional sources by inducting various renewable sources as part of the energy mix.
He identified various real and hidden costs of different renewable technologies and observed that a complete reliance on renewable energy (RE) did not appear a technical or economic possibility in the near future.
Among hidden costs of renewable energy, he emphasised the requirement for land and water. Fossil fuels, he stressed, are not going away anywhere soon and there is no single solution to combat the effects of climate change.
Later sessions of the Workshop will focus on the relationship between energy policy and environment, Pakistan’s changing energy profile, trends in renewable energy systems and their storage technologies, nuclear power, cost comparison of different technologies and community based renewable energy systems.