NDTC proposed power generation plan
It appears that bitter lesson has not been learnt from the flawed power generation police of 1994 and 2013, which resulted in unaffordable electricity tariff and accumulation of power sector debt of Rs.2 trillion. The same liability of Rs.485 billion was paid seven years ago by the previous government. But it opted to pursue the policy of expensive and health hazardous thermal power generation by not making correct assessment of cost-benefit analysis, picking of additional load by existing transmission and distribution system and future demand from all categories of consumers. Currently the installed capacity is 35000 megawatt against the peak demand of over 20000 megawatt.
National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NDTC) has proposed a 27 year Integrated Generation Capacity Expansion Plan (IGCEP 2020-47). The plan pushes to the backburner electricity generation from the locally available renewable sources such as hydel on the premise that completion of hydel power stations takes fairly long time. The plan document does not mention another potential source like installation of wind mills. It brings to the front burner setting up health hazardous; climate change impact exacerbating and high tariff coal based power plants in addition to civilian nuclear power plants which carry the risk of radioactivity spell over effect, if unfortunately accident occurs. Ironically, power generation component of Diyamer Basha dam has been delayed from 2028 to 2043. Perhaps the recent critique of Prime Minister Imran Khan on the cost of fossil fuel for electricity generation was not in the mind of framers of IGCEP, otherwise they would have made last minute amendment in its document. It seems that vested interest has prevailed in the proposed plan of power generation or it is a master piece of myopic vision of NDTC bureaucracy
Amazingly the pursuit of clean and inexpensive hydel power generation has been tacitly rejected that hydropower plants have operational life span of 30 to 50 years, ignoring the bare fact that few hydel power stations including Warsak and Darrgai are functional from the past 70 years. Malakand P-3 of 81 megawatt was added to the Dargai power plant in 2000, which NDTC high ups very well know.
The plan envisages greater reliance on coal based thermal power generation of 32,967 megawatt. In this regard the vulnerability of the country to climate change impact has been criminally ignored. Pakistan has been placed at the sixth spot of Global Climate Risk Index. Pakistan is signatory to Paris Climate Agreement of December 12, 2015, which emphasises reduction of carbon emission in air.
Again NDTC planners and decision makers are oblivious of recorded 100 nuclear power plants’ accidents that had occurred from 1952 till 2011, while putting nuclear electricity generation second to coal based generation. They have not taken into account the risks of radioactivity spell-over effects which sometimes the developed countries had found difficult to contain. The disaster of Chernobyl in former Soviet Union in 1986 had greatly alarmed the countries of Western Europe. Likewise, another nuclear accident of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan invited global alarm of radioactivity spell over effect. It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan has failed to sustain locusts attack, how can it claims to be equipped with the skill-sets to tackle nuclear leakage from the power plant, probably in a near future, if it continues to go along this dark alley? Such accidents can involve loss of life and huge monetary costs for remediation work. Moreover, nuclear energy is expensive enough as compared with hydel and wind. Last but not the least it runs counter to the PTI government policy of achieving optimal energy mix by increasing the percentage electricity generation from clean renewable sources. Hydropower plants get priority across the world for producing cheaper electricity, timely and easy provision of ancillary services such as frequency control and grid stability during peak demand.. The frequent tripping and breakdowns in the transmission system give grim reminders every year. IGCEP ignores these technical and cost benefits. Governments of four provinces, AJK and private sector stakeholders have expressed serious reservations against it. Let us hope the ruling political leadership will fulfill its promise about optimal energy mix to lower the power tariff.