ISLAMABAD: Despite reiterating its support for Pakistan’s efforts to overcome its energy crisis, the United States did not make any commitment during two days of talks here to finance the $11 billion Diamer-Bhasha dam or to persuade its oil and gas companies to invest in the country’s gas exploration and development projects.
As if that was not enough, the US delegation at what has been termed US-Pakistan energy dialogue stiffened its opposition to the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project now in the implementation phase and asked Islamabad to intensify its efforts to develop its own indigenous hydrocarbon resources to avoid possible impact of US and UN sanctions against Iran.
The US delegation is led by Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual.
Reliable sources told Dawn that Pakistan made two specific requests relating to the multi-billion dollar dam and gas exploration to the US delegation during the dialogue. Insiders said the Pakistani authorities pointed out that US exploration and development companies known for their expertise and modern technology were investing all over the world looking for oil and gas reserves but were conspicuous by their absence in Pakistan.
“The US companies should be part of gas exploration and development process in Pakistan and we look forward to the US government playing an active role here,” a member of the Pakistani team was quoted as telling the US delegation. “They (the US firms) should come to Pakistan” was the response from the visiting delegation.
The sources said the Pakistani side also wanted the US team to commit to financing the Diamer-Bhasha dam and help the country in persuading institutions like the World Bank to become financing partner in the mega project capable of producing 4,500MW of relatively cheap hydropower, necessary to improve hydel-thermal ratio.
The sources said that although USAID officials had earlier hinted at financing the Diamer-Bhasha dam and even indicated that an announcement to the effect would be made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, yet the visiting delegation was in no mood to make a formal commitment at least at this stage.
An official statement issued at the end of the fourth round of the energy dialogue said it “concluded with a reaffirmation from the US side for its commitment to help Pakistan in its endeavours to resolve the energy crises which is affecting the socio-economic progress of the country and the US offered its support to establishing a commercially viable and sustainable power sector in Pakistan”.
“There are no quick fixes to this crisis, but the United States and international partners are willing to help. We will continue to support Pakistan in its efforts to resolve this energy crisis,” Mr Pascual was quoted by the US embassy in Islamabad as saying.
Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar, who led the Pakistani side, appreciated the keen interest of the US in development of Pakistan’s economy by addressing its growing energy requirements and said that lack of sufficient energy resources had come out to be one of the biggest impediments in growth of Pakistan’s economy as energy resources happened to be the fuel for any economy.
The US delegation was also updated on various ongoing reforms, including the status of transformation of the power sector from an integrated public sector utilities model to a competitive market regime.
The issues hampering the progress on various reforms, including but not limited to circular debt, fuel availability constraints, soaring high prices of oil, and the worsening fuel mix due to more dependence of thermal projects especially based on oil because of fast depleting natural gas reserves, were also discussed in detail.
Ambassador Pascual stressed the importance of improved governance, efficiency regulatory reforms to enhance private sector participation and financial management as key to achieving success.
The US side highlighted its ongoing energy programmes saying these would bring more than 900MW of power to the Pakistani grid by 2012. The programmes include construction and rehabilitation of three hydropower plants (Satpara, Gomal Zam and Tarbela) and three thermal power plants (Guddu, Muzaffargarh and Jamshoro). “This extra energy will bring power to approximately 7 million people, eradicate 20 per cent of Pakistan’s existing power shortage, reduce annual oil imports by more than one million barrels and help store water for irrigation and flood control,” it said.