In coal-fo­cused Pak­istan, a wind power breeze is blow­ing

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Pak­istan is be­gin­ning to reap the ben­e­fits of Chi­nese in­vest­ment in re­new­able en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture, with the open­ing of the first wind power project con­structed as part of the huge China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor, aimed at over­haul­ing the coun­try’s trans­port and en­ergy sys­tems.

The nearly 50 megawatt wind farm is lo­cated on over 680 acres (275 hectares) of land in Jhim­pir, near the shores of the pic­turesque Keen­jhar Lake, around two hours’ drive from the city of Karachi.

Jhim­pir is part of the so-called “Gharo-Jhim­pir wind cor­ri­dor” in Sindh prov­ince, a 180 km (110 mile) stretch of coastal land that the Pak­istan Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal De­part­ment says has the po­ten­tial to pro­duce 11,000 MW of elec­tric­ity through wind power.

The cor­ri­dor is home to Pak­istan’s ear­li­est wind project, which be­gan in 2009 with just a few tur­bines and was up­graded to an in­stalled ca­pac­ity of 56 MW by 2012. The new wind farm, which opened last month, has been de­vel­oped by Sachal En­ergy De­vel­op­ment, with fi­nanc­ing from the In­dus­trial and Com­mer­cial Bank of China.

Pak­istan and China have signed around $57 bil­lion of en­ergy and in­fra­struc­ture projects un­der the Chi­naPak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC). Most of this in­vest­ment is go­ing to­wards coal­fired power plants, fu­elled both by im­ported coal and by coal mines in Pak­istan’s Thar Desert.

The CPEC projects aim to boost en­ergy pro­duc­tion in Pak­istan to re­duce short­ages that lead to reg­u­lar power out­ages. The coun­try can pro­duce as much as 23,000 MW of power, but ex­perts say that there is a short­fall of as much as 5,000 MW dur­ing pe­ri­ods of peak de­mand - and de­mand is in­creas­ing by the day given the rapidly grow­ing pop­u­la­tion.

CPEC en­ergy projects are ex­pected to add around 17,000 MW to the na­tional grid in the next few years through what are be­ing called “early har­vest” projects to over­come the en­ergy cri­sis.

Most of these are coal-pow­ered plants, such as the 1,320 MW Sahi­wal plant in Pun­jab, which was inau­gu­rated this month. But CPEC also in­cludes some re­new­able en­ergy projects. The Quaid-eAzam so­lar park in Ba­hawalpur, in south­ern Pun­jab, is due to gen­er­ate 1,000 MW, while a fur­ther 250 MW will come from the wind cor­ri­dor in Sindh.

Zee­shan Ash­faq, a re­search an­a­lyst who works for the World Wind En­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion, told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion in an in­ter­view that Pak­istan’s grid cur­rently has more wind power ca­pac­ity than so­lar power ca­pac­ity. “To­day we only have 400 MW of grid­con­nected so­lar en­ergy from Quaid-eAzam so­lar park, whereas we have 640 MW of grid-con­nected wind en­ergy al­ready in Jhim­pir”, in­clud­ing pre­vi­ously in­stalled wind projects, Ash­faq said.

Room for re­new­ables

The Gharo-Jhim­pir wind cor­ri­dor, mapped in 2013 by the US Na­tional Re­new­able En­ergy Lab­o­ra­tory, con­tains vast stretches of sa­line land, un­suit­able for agri­cul­ture and dot­ted only with a few bushes.

“Thir­teen projects are al­ready oper­a­tional here and oth­ers are in the pipe­line. By the end of this year, an ad­di­tional 200 MW of en­ergy will be added to the grid,” Ash­faq said.

In June, the In­ter­na­tional Fi­nance Cor­po­ra­tion (IFC), a mem­ber of the World Bank Group, an­nounced that it will pro­vide $66 mil­lion, and mo­bi­lize a fur­ther $172 mil­lion, to help build three 50 MW wind power projects in the Gharo-Jhim­pir wind cor­ri­dor. Tri­con­boston Con­sult­ing Cor­po­ra­tion, part of a Pak­istani tex­tile group that en­tered the re­new­able en­ergy mar­ket in 2015, will op­er­ate the plants, which the IFC says will col­lec­tively form Pak­istan’s largest wind farm.

The World Bank has now started map­ping Pak­istan’s en­tire wind po­ten­tial, look­ing at wind cor­ri­dors in Pun­jab as well. “With global pric­ing com­ing down, the mar­ket for re­new­ables is kick­ing off. There is a lot of in­ter­est from in­vestors,” ex­plained Sha­bana Khawar, the IFC’s prin­ci­pal coun­try of­fi­cer in Pak­istan.

Khawar said the IFC is the largest pri­vate-sec­tor in­vestor in power in Pak­istan and is fo­cus­ing on hy­dro, wind and so­lar projects. She es­ti­mates that there are more than 2,000 MW of mid- to largescale wind and hy­dro projects in the pipe­line.

The wind projects in­clude feed-in tar­iffs, which make them at­trac­tive to in­vestors by guar­an­tee­ing pay­ments for the elec­tric­ity pro­duced. In March, the Na­tional Elec­tric Power Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity (NEPRA) set the bench­mark tar­iff at 6.7 U.S. cents per unit of power pro­duced.

Am­jad Awan, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the govern­ment’s Al­ter­na­tive En­ergy De­vel­op­ment Board, said that be­cause wind power pro­duc­tion de­pends on the strength of the wind at any time, it is im­por­tant to cre­ate an en­ergy mix, such as of wind and so­lar power or wind and nat­u­ral gas. —Reuters

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