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LAHORE: The PML-N government may not meet its words of adding around 10,000MW to the national grid by March 2018 as the power projects it has launched after the May 2013 general elections are dependent on imported fuel and technical issues.

An energy expert says the federal government launched six power projects, of them three LNG powered and another three coal fired, and for them LNG and coal were being imported. He said the projects may falter and stop whenever there is a shortage of LNG and coal for diplomatic reasons or on-ground technical problems hit the projects.

“The maximum power generation touched only for once 19,250MW during the tenure of this government,” the official source based in one of the power distribution companies told Dawn on Saturday.

“Now, the average power generation is 17,000MW to 18,000MW. The highest power generation figure was obtained when the two of the six power plants -- Bhikki and Havaili Bahadur Shah, both RLNG-fired power plants -- started generating power. Later on, when both plants remained idle for about one month due to technical reasons, the generation figure came down.”

He said the six projects launched by the incumbent government included Bhikki, Havaili Bahadur Shah and Balloki plants (RLNG) and one in Sahiwal and two at Port Qasim (coal fired).

However, Neelum Jhelum, Tarbela (extension-4) and some small hydropower projects and Chashma Nuclear Power projects have already been underway before this government came into power. The government expects the generation of 10,000MW or so from all these thermal, hydro and nuclear power projects by March 2018, the time it goes into elections.

The official said going for indigenous resources would be the only durable solution. He cited the recent tensions between LNG giant Qatar and Saudi Arabia-led alliance and in such situations, a country like Pakistan could lose either Saudi Arabia or Qatar and in either case it would face power crisis. He said the countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia had surplus power generation for they were depending on their local resources. He said for Pakistan, the best option was Thar coal.

“Similarly, there are some technical issues due to which two of these plants remained shut for about one month or so sometimes ago. Technical snags may hit again, leading to the suspension of power generation,” the official added.

The official was also not optimist about much-hyped hydro power projects because of the seasonal availability of water in rivers. He said that in the winter, the hydel generation touched the lowest figures among other resources.

“We can say Chashma Nuclear Power Plant and others powered on local fuels such gas and coal as not dependent on imported fuel and they best suit us. So in this situation, the government should not stick to unrealistic claim of adding 10,000MW to the national grid by March next,” he said.

He said the government must realise that its promise of ending loadshedding was not limited to Punjab alone, as it would have to ensure zero-loadshedding in all provinces. “It is really a very difficult and huge task. I’ve come to the conclusion that the government may not be able to do so,” the official said.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2017