ISLAMABAD: As government issued letter of interest (LoI) for setting up a 660MW coal power project in Thar to be completed by December 2015, the Water and Power Minister, Khwaja Moha­mmad Asif, said on Thursday that people should be prepared for enhanced electricity shortfall for almost five weeks after Dec 22.

Talking to journalists at the signing ceremony of LoI for Thar project, the minister said there would be higher electricity shortage, beginning on Dec 22 because of decline in hydropower production due to canal closure.

Responding to a question, the minister downplayed a recent episode of over-billing to electricity consumers, and said that audit reports did not prove anything wrong.

Referring to the audit reports, he said that the bills were issued for 35 days because of Eid holidays while electricity consumption was higher by 14 per cent due to better availability of electricity.

He said the two factors resulted in ‘slab burst’. He said there was no complaint of over-billing the following month as billing cycle normalised.

Responding to a question on revival of rental power plants, the minister said that under short-term power plant policy, the government had decided to benefit from plants having clearance from National Accountability Bureau and which were not in conflict

with any section of the Supreme Court’s decision on rental power plants case.

He said the government would not pay them capacity charges and purchase electricity on payment of energy charges only.

He said that the Thar Coal Field was expected to become energy capital of Pakistan in the next few years for which first power plant had been issued the LoI on Thursday.

He said it was the national priority of the government to develop Thar coal and utilise it on commercial basis.

He said that presently known as a famine-hit area, Thar after completion of the power projects would become energy capital and drought would become the horrible dream of the past.

Mr Asif said the government had been able to bring down the duration of load-shedding to three-four hours and steps were now being taken to reduce transmission and distribution losses. Recovery has been improved and circular debt issue was being resolved.

He said some power projects would also be initiated on LNG and would be completed in three years.

Earlier, the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) issued LoI to Engro Powergen Limited (EPGL) for development of 660MW Thar Coal Power Project.

The document was signed by Shah Jahan Mirza, acting managing director of PPIB and Shamsuddin Shaikh, chief executive officer of EPGL.

The PPIB board of directors had in its recent meeting accorded approval for processing the subject project under the “guidelines for setting up of private power projects under short-term capacity addition initiative-August 2010” and approved issuance of LoI to sponsors upon fulfilment of all requirements under these guidelines.

Engro Powergen would develop a project of 660MW (2x330MW each) utilising indigenous Thar lignite coal to be supplied by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company — a joint venture of government of Sindh and Engro Corporation — which is the lease-holder of Thar Block-II.

The project is the first and pilot project to utilise Thar coal for power generation and its development will reduce Pakistan’s dependence on costly oil-based power generation, thus saving millions of dollars of foreign exchange.

It is expected that the project will start its commercial operation by December 2017.

Published in Dawn, November 21th, 2014

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