Money Matters

Fresh blow

By Hussain Ahmad Siddiqui
Mon, 02, 19

Development of the first-ever hydropower project in Sindh province is in doldrums, and not likely to take-off in near future.

Development of the first-ever hydropower project in Sindh province is in doldrums, and not likely to take-off in near future.

The Letter of Interest (LOI) was issued by the Directorate of Alternative Energy of the Energy Department, Government of Sindh in January 2015 to Nara Hydropower (Pvt) Ltd for construction of a 15-MW installed capacity run-of-the-river low-head hydropower plant. The project, located on Nara Canal (Sukkur) downstream, was scheduled to achieve financial close by October 2018. As the developers belong to the Omni Group of companies, currently facing various criminal charges in the courts, the fate of Nara hydropower project remains uncertain.

Based on the feasibility study finalized in June 2015 the project, on completion, would have an optimum gross capacity of 13.65 MW and net capacity of 12.90 MW, it would cost $ 55.59 million, and achieve commercial operations by March 2021. Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) study of the project was conducted in December 2017. Likewise, the Grid Interconnection Scheme was approved in March 2018, while Sukkur Electric Power Company (SEPCO) has committed to purchase electricity from the proposed power generation facility.

Request for grant of a power generation license is pending with the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA). Nonetheless, there is no physical progress at project site. Currently, there is not a single hydropower plant in operation in Sindh. According to the sources of the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB), six potential sites of an estimated total capacity of 178 MW have been identified in Sindh for developing hydropower generation, with medium and low head, ranging from small to medium projects.

These include Guddu Barrage Project of 33.5 MW capacity, Rohri Project of 16 MW capacity to be located at Rohri Canal—RD-26, and Rohri Canal RD-15 project of 9 MW capacity. Since long the three irrigation barrages constructed across the Indus River, namely Sukkur Barrage, Kotri Barrage and Guddu Barrage, offer promising potential for constructing hydropower stations of various capacities as run-of-the-river projects. Requisite infrastructure is available in the respective areas, including power transmission and distribution lines. There are no issues of re-location of populace either.

Demand of electricity in Sindh is increasing rapidly year-on-year, and thousands of villages are still deprived of electrification. To harness the hydropower potential in the province, the Sindh government had appointed consultants in 2011 to conduct technical and economic feasibility studies of the selected four sites and also to extend transaction advisory services to market feasible projects for public-private partnership or developing in private sector. Feasibility studies for these projects were thus completed more than a decade ago but implementation of only a selected project could be initiated in recent years, and too unsuccessfully.

Expression of interest for the 9-MW Rohri Canal hydropower project was invited by the provincial government in October 2017 but without a decision so far. Numerous sites have meanwhile been identified for establishing small, mini and micro power stations on various perennial canals, lakes and falls. The raw site projects for which feasibility studies are required to be prepared include, Nai Gaj Fall Project of gross capacity 80 MW, proposed to be located at Gaj River in Kirthar Mountain Range. Three other raw sites known as Sukkur Projects, with cumulative capacity of 48.55 MW are proposed at the Indus River/Nara Canal, of capacities 22.51 MW, 18.15 MW and 7.85 MW.

Two small dams, with mini hydropower potential, are planned for construction in Dadu and Jamshoro districts. Wapda also has embarked on construction of other small dams along hydropower stations which, on completion, will generate electricity. The initiative to develop various hydropower projects is aimed at supplementing the power generation capacity, in the backdrop of persistent electricity shortages and future demand projections.

Hydropower is cheap, reliable, renewable, sustainable and environment-friendly source of energy. A modular design concept for the electro-mechanical equipment required for hydropower plants has recently been developed for all types of small stations up to an output of 30 MW per unit. Such a modular design minimizes civil works. Capital cost is estimated to be less than one million dollar per megawatt of installed capacity. The projects, to be constructed on turnkey basis, may achieve commercial operations within a period of two to three years.

The initiative of developing hydropower projects in Sindh, primarily of small and medium size, is of crucial importance. The government should go immediately for the bidding process for developing the two promising projects proposed at Guddu Barrage of 33.5 MW and Rohri Canal of 9 MW. Consultants should be engaged to prepare investment proposal as per policy and/or prepare tender documents for inviting detailed proposals for construction, engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts for these projects.

The writer is former chairman of State Engineering Corporation