LAHORE: Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif appears to be overly touchy about the cost and production capacity of the Quaid-i-Azam Solar Park (QASP) project in Bahawalpur.
In a second press conference in two days, the chief minister said on Friday it was the most viable venture in the country that helped lighten up some 54,000 houses in six months.
He addressed the press conference to address media reports about the project viability and cost.
He said the Punjab government was generating 18.5 megawatts per day (from the project) at a cost of Rs13.5 billion, including tax.
“It is more cost-effective than a wind power project,” he asserted.
Saying that any hydro power project would have been completed in five years with 35 megawatts per day, the chief minister said that he did not want the masses to suffer in darkness for the years to come. He also criticised former president General Pervez Musharraf for failing to construct the Bhasha Dam even though he ruled the country for nine years. “Now, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has released funds for Bhasha and Dasu dams and the land acquisition process has begun,” he said.
About the QASP cost and power generation viability, Mr Sharif said the Central Power Purchase Authority had recorded 18.5 megawatts generation from the project. He dispelled the impression that the project cost stood at Rs18 billion, saying the cost had been calculated at Rs13.35 billion, including taxes.
Comparing the first solar power project with wind power plants currently operational in Jhimpir, Sindh, Mr Sharif said the 250 megawatts’ four wind power plants were producing 28 to 30 megawatts per day at the cost of $2.1 million per megawatt, while the QASP was producing 18.5 megawatts at the cost of $1.33 million.
He admitted that a hydro power project worth Rs13.5 billion would produce 90 megawatts per day with a far less tariff. However, he said, the hydro power project would require years and years to be functional. Taking time period in account, he said, the solar power production started immediately and its total generation over the years would match the hydro power production.
He said the New Bong Escape Hydro Power Project in Azad Jammu and Kashmir was being constructed at $152 million to produce electricity at the cost of $1.9 million per megawatt. He said this 84 megawatt project would be producing 63 per cent power on an average. He said the electricity unit cost for the first year stood at 10.2 cents per unit followed by 10 cents and 9.46 cents in the preceding years.
The chief minister said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had also inaugurated the run-of-the-river 100-megawatt Gulpur Hydro Power Plant on Poonch River in AJK, in 2013.
The chief minister said Punjab had very limited hydro projects locations.
Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2015