ISLAMABAD, Feb 8: A high-level meeting presided over by President Pervez Musharraf decided on Friday to finalise arrangements for starting work on a 1,000-MW coal-fired power plant at Thar in order to meet the growing electricity shortage.
Reliable sources told Dawn that the meeting, which was also attended by caretaker Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro, directed the federal and Sindh governments to resolve differences over the tariff issue by “inviting open bidding” to ensure the early setting up of the plant.
Once the bidding has taken place, the government can determine certain benchmarks about the tariff issue, particularly to address concerns of the Sindh province.
Sindh officials have earlier refused to accept 7.8 per cent tariff as decided by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) for power generated in Thar and wanted an increased tariff.
“The fastest way to resolve the tariff issue is that open bidding should take place quickly,” a source who attended the meeting quoted the president as saying.
The meeting was informed that there was 180 billion tons of coal in Thar, which needed to be exploited soon.
The sources said the meeting believed that an early pilot project should be launched in Thar so that national and international companies became interested in investing in the area.
The meeting was apprised about a recent study conducted by M/s Mosley about the cost of mining and the quality of Thar coal and other related issues.
The company believes that the production of 24,000 tons of coal at $17 to $18 per ton would be a feasible venture by using better mining technology and developing the power plant on the new BTU heating capacity. This could then be out-sourced to an international mining company for financial closing.
The sources said the meeting was informed that a couple of thermal power plants were expected to be finalised by December this year. However, a participant said that since furnace oil was 3.5 times more expensive, the government should encourage small hydel projects for which over 200 sites had been identified by Wapda.
The meeting was informed that due to prolonged winter the power crisis had worsened, requiring long hours of loadshedding across the country. The average gas load which was 1,000-14,000 MCFT last year had increased to 1,600-1,800 MCFT this year. “The additional 300-400 MCFT load has caused a lot of problems for us,” a source said.
According to him, officials of the Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB) informed the meeting that land had been acquired in Sindh to set up wind power projects.
An official statement issued after the meeting said that President Musharraf had stressed the need of overcoming the energy crisis by taking all possible measures on an emergency basis. He said that Pakistan had abundant energy resources.