Distress power generation

The declaration by federal Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf that the inhabitants of Karachi will not pay extra for the electricity generated by the Karadeniz Power Ship, Kaya Bey, must be treated with scepticism. The minister qualified his statement by saying that the electricity will be provided at National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) approved rates. If the statement of the spokesman of the Karachi Electricity Supply Company (KESC) is to be believed however, it is as yet unclear how or who will receive the power generated by this rental power project (RPP), i.e. the KESC or the national grid.

It goes without saying that RPPs are inherently not the most economical option for power generation. However, RPPs are the only viable option in the near- or short-term. A price increase in the per unit cost of electricity produced by the Kaya Bey is a bitter pill to swallow. The Kaya Bey will produce 232 megawatts and operate for five years. Raja Pervez Ashraf is correct in emphasising the need for the government to accelerate the pace of work on other power projects and complete the formalities of power projects in the pipeline. He also said that eight independent power projects (IPPs) and two RPPs will be inducted into the national system by the end of this year. Readers are advised not to hold their breath; since the end of the year is less than 45 days away and Raja Pervez Ashraf’s track record in keeping his promises is questionable to say the least (remember his announcement that load shedding would end by end-2009?).

Our federal minister claims we are producing 15,000 megawatts; installed capacity stands at 19,500 megawatts. This is understandable up to a point since 100 percent generation is rarely achievable. However, the forecast increase in international oil prices, continuing high line losses and theft paint a gloomy picture. It is for these very reasons that we must develop the Thar coalfields, set up IPPs in the medium term, and look towards renewable energy for the future, with dams where possible and run-of-the-river projects where feasible, tapping solar, wind, tidal and bio-mass sources along the way.The Kaya Bey RPP is a step in the right direction but it is only the first step towards the solution to one of Pakistan’s greatest hurdles in development – Dailytimes