Tuesday October 03, 2023

Alternate solutions to energy in off-grid areas to be encouraged

By Bureau report
March 20, 2021

PESHAWAR: Advisor to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister for Energy and Power Himayatullah Khan on Friday said that the government would continue encouraging alternate solutions to address the energy needs in off-grid areas in the province.

He was speaking at the concluding session of a two-day workshop on “Sustaining Mini-Micro Hydro Units” arranged by Pakhtunkhwa Electric Development Organisation (PEDO) and the Sarhad Rural Support Programme at the Human Resource Development Centre of the Sarhad Rural Support Programme in Hayatabad.

Secretary Energy and Power Muhammad Zubair, PEDO chief executive officer and other officials attended the workshop among others.

Himayatullah Khan said that the cost of extending the grid to such areas was exorbitant and would also be very expensive in terms of maintainability.

The workshop, which was attended by PEDO partner organisations, producers and civil society organisations, had been arranged to address the issues of sustaining the mini-micro hydro projects in the province. The advisor said that the government had invested over Rs20 billion in this sector to ensure that remote regions benefit from the generation of electricity.

He said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government had handed over a number of dysfunctional units previously established by the PEDO to civil society organisations and within a short time these had been upgraded and made functional which were providing electricity in tourist spots like Kalam.

The advisor said there was a long history of community-run mini-hydropower projects in the region. But the larger units which had been established in the PEDO-funded projects called for putting in a lot of ingenuity to tackle the issues of financial, managerial and social sustainability and those of land rights and water rights that have to be addressed in sustaining them.

The advisor said the two good models had been demonstrated in Chitral and Swat by SRSP and Aga khan Rural Support Programme under the Social Enterprise and utility models, which had shown a path that could be taken for sustaining these systems.

These need to be examined closely and a solution found that was the best fit for each area, which showed a lot of cultural and social diversity.

“There could not be one solution but there could be many solutions but they must ensure that the communities have regular and good quality electricity and are not exploited while setting electricity tariff and a sound and transparent management systems to run them sustainably,” he added.

The advisor asked PEDO to come up with a simple and easily manageable solution to the sustainability of this large investment in mini micro-hydro units. He said the first phase of the PEDO project would end on June 30 and no extension would be given to it.

Secretary Energy and power Muhammad Zubair said the issue of sustainability was very important and needed to be looked into at all parts of the value chain from establishment of the powerhouses to their eventual social, managerial and financial sustainability.

Earlier, during the workshop, the evolution of micro-hydro electricity generation in the province was discussed. The first micro-hydro units were set up through individual efforts at the State level in 1924 in Chitral.

Micro hydros got a big boost when the AKRSP established a programme in Chitral in 1991. Within a decade, the World Bank acknowledged this programme as the largest concentration of micro hydros anywhere in the world.

The programme was later taken on by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Dir Kohistan.

The MRDP programme also invested in the sector in the early 2,000. Community dissemination and uptake took place in Shangla. Both the AKRSP and SRSP expanded the programme and moved into the mini-hydro electricity sector in the first decade of the 21 century.

The PEDO had worked in the mini-hydro sector but it decided to focus on larger units and handed over most of its units to civil society organisations to run. There has been a steady improvement in the quality of technology used in the field and cross-flow, Francis turbines and Kaplan have been used.

The community development model that was developed to run small mini hydros has been largely successful. But the growing demand for electricity has made organisations focus on larger units extending from 200kv to 2 megawatts.

These have thrown challenges for their social, financial and managerial sustainability.

The AKRSP and SRSP presented the different models they have used to address these issues. The model showed that each organisation has adapted the community models to the local requirements.

One of the challenges which the powerhouses in remote regions face was that of lower load and excess capacity and said that the linking of these units to the local or national grid would be a good solution to overcome electricity shortages elsewhere.

The workshop discussed the problems with the installation. Provision of spare parts and operations and maintenance.

It urged the government to support this sector as it had considerable potential for growth.

Local organisations had successfully carried out installation of machinery at the power housing because during covid international expertise could not come demonstrating the growth of local capacity in the sector.