En­ergy for Growth

In­dus­tri­al­iza­tion be­ing the key for devel­op­ment, the hunger for power in South Asia is bur­geon­ing.

Southasia - - COVER STORY - By S.G. Ji­la­nee

The South Asian sub­con­ti­nent has a pop­u­la­tion of about 1.6 bil­lion. This huge mass of hu­man­ity needs an enor­mous amount of en­ergy not only to light their homes and use com­fort gad­gets but, more im­por­tantly, for agri­cul­tural and in­dus­trial growth. In­dus­tri­al­iza­tion be­ing the key for devel­op­ment, the hunger for power is bur­geon­ing.

The prob­lem of en­ergy short­age is more acute in In­dia and Pak­istan be­cause they are com­par­a­tively more in­dus­tri­al­ized. The main source of power gen­er­a­tion in Bangladesh is its nat­u­ral gas re­serves. Cur­rently, around 88 per­cent of the en­ergy used for pro­duc­ing elec­tric­ity in the coun­try is ob­tained from nat­u­ral gas, 4 per­cent from coal, 6 per­cent from oil and 2 per­cent from hy­dro­elec­tric power. In 2011, Bangladesh reached an agree­ment with Rus­sia to build a 2,000 MW nu­clear power plant with two re­ac­tors, each of which would gen­er­ate 1,200 MW.

In­dia cur­rently has an in­stalled power gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity of 248,510 MW. Of this, 171,376 MW are gen­er­ated by ther­mal sources and 72,354 MW by re­new­able means, out of which coal-fired plants ac­count for 59 per­cent, re­new­able hy­dropower 17 per­cent, other re­new­able en­ergy 12 per­cent and nat­u­ral gas about 9 per­cent.

The av­er­age per capita con­sump­tion of elec­tric­ity in In­dia is es­ti­mated at 883.6 kwh. In 2009, it was 96 kwh in ru­ral ar­eas and 288 kwh in ur­ban ar­eas. This shows a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in de­mand. Yet, more than one-third of In­dia's ru­ral pop­u­la­tion and 6 per­cent of its ur­ban pop­u­la­tion lack elec­tric­ity.

The fig­ures avail­able for 2010-11 show that the de­mand for elec­tric­ity in In­dia far out­stripped sup­ply. The base load re­quire­ment was 861,591 mil­lion units against the avail­abil­ity of 788,355 mu – an 8.5 per­cent deficit. Dur­ing peak hours, the de­mand was 122 gi­gawatt against the avail­abil­ity of 110 gw, a 9.8 per­cent short­fall. In­dia’s elec­tric­ity de­mand is es­ti­mated to be at least 1392 tera watt hours by 2016-17, with a peak elec­tric­ity de­mand of 218 gw.

Yet, In­dia sur­passed Ja­pan and Rus­sia to be­come the world's third largest pro­ducer of elec­tric­ity in 2013 with a 4.8 per­cent global share in elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion. It is also among the world's most ac­tive play­ers in re­new­able en­ergy uti­liza­tion.

Presently, 70 per­cent of its en­ergy is gen­er­ated from coal based power plants. Coal re­serves in In­dia are es­ti­mated at around 293.5 bil­lion tonnes, nat­u­ral gas re­sources 1330.26 bil­lion cu­bic me­ters (as of March 2012) while re­new­able en­ergy gen­er­a­tion has a po­ten­tial of 89,774 MW.

Ac­cord­ing to In­dia’s Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, by 2016-17, the coun­try will man­age an ap­prox­i­mate 6.7 mil­lion tonnes of oil. But this will meet only 70 per­cent of the ex­pected de­mand.

Pak­istan’s daily en­ergy de­mand is around 15,000 to 20,000 MW against the sup­ply of 12,000 MW. On a daily ba­sis, there is a short­fall of ap­prox­i­mately 8000 MW. This short­fall is re­spon­si­ble for economic desta­bi­liza­tion in the coun­try. In­dus­trial pro­duc­tion suf­fers be­cause of long power out­ages. Some in­dus­trial units have in­stalled pri­vate gen­er­a­tors, but this in­creases their cost of pro­duc­tion and they end up los­ing their com­pet­i­tive edge. Be­sides, long spells of dark­ness of­ten bring peo­ple on the streets in vi­o­lent protests.

The to­tal in­stalled ca­pac­ity of elec­tric­ity in Pak­istan is 30,000 MW, of which 65 per­cent is ob­tained from fos­sil fuel, 31 per­cent from hy­dropower and 4 per­cent from nu­clear power. Wind en­ergy is a re­cent devel­op­ment with high prom­ises.

Pak­istan's en­ergy pol­icy suf­fers from a lack of ur­gency, lead­ing to slip­shod plan­ning and, above all, cor­rup­tion. For ex­am­ple, there is an es­ti­mated 185 bil­lion tonnes re­serves of coal in the coun­try, which is equiv­a­lent to 400 bil­lion bar­rels of oil. But decades have passed since its dis­cov­ery and yet no sig­nif­i­cant at­tempt has been made to tap this re­source. Wind and so­lar en­ergy are some other vi­able sources.

Pak­istan has an abil­ity to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity up to 50,000 MW from wind power, es­pe­cially in the coastal ar­eas of Karachi, Thatta, Ji­wani, Gharo and Keti Ban­dar, etc. where wind power has the pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity of about 35000 MW. A be­gin­ning has been made with the in­stal­la­tion of wind tur­bines at Jhim­pir in Thatta but it will take a long time be­fore the coun­try fully ex­ploits this re­source.

So­lar en­ergy is one of the cheap­est and im­por­tant sources of power gen­er­a­tion. Pak­istan has a po­ten­tial of gen­er­at­ing "more than 100,000 MW" of elec­tric­ity from this source. Many pro­jects of de­vel­op­ing so­lar en­ergy plants are un­der­way in Kash­mir, Pun­jab, Sindh and Balochis­tan. The Al­ter­na­tive Elec­tric­ity Devel­op­ment Panel has in­stalled 20, 000 pho­to­voltaic min­eral wa­ter heaters in Gil­git-Baltistan.

Ear­lier, the PPP gov­ern­ment, in a show of alacrity, went for rental power pro­jects (RPPs) al­most in a crazy fash­ion, sign­ing con­tracts and

dish­ing out mas­sive ad­vances. The plan was to gen­er­ate 2,700MW of elec­tric­ity to re­duce the short­fall. How­ever, of the 19 RPPs that the gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted to, only one be­came op­er­a­tional as sched­uled, adding only 62 MW of elec­tric­ity to the na­tional grid. The gov­ern­ment paid Rs.16.6 bil­lion to the RPPs in ad­vance and cre­ated a li­a­bil­ity of $1.7 bil­lion for it­self through th­ese con­tracts.

Ul­ti­mately, in May 2012, the Supreme Court de­clared the RPPs il­le­gal and or­dered them to be shut down. It also or­dered those in­volved in the scam, in­clud­ing for­mer Wa­ter and Power min­is­ter, Raja Per­vaiz Ashraf, to be pros­e­cuted for mas­sive cor­rup­tion and caus­ing huge losses to the public ex­che­quer, by mak­ing 7 per­cent to 14 per­cent down pay­ments amount­ing to about Rs22 bil­lion to RPPs and pur­chas­ing elec­tric­ity on higher rates,. Ac­cord­ingly, Raja Pervez Ashraf and six oth­ers were in­dicted by an ac­count­abil­ity court last Jan­uary.

There was some hope that the Iran-Pak­istan gas pipe­line would solve the prob­lem of en­ergy short­age. But it re­mains in the dol­drums be­cause the U.S. has threat­ened Pak­istan with sanc­tions.

An al­ter­na­tive to the Pak-Iran Gas Pipe­line Project is of­fered by the Turk­menistan-Afghanistan-Pak­istan-In­dia (TAPI) gas sup­ply project. This has as­sumed re­newed im­por­tance be­cause of the en­ergy cri­sis in Pak­istan.

The project was started in 1995 but re­mained dor­mant due to in­ter­nal in­sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan. This 1735 km pipe­line with a max­i­mum dis­charge of 33 bil­lion cu­bic me­ters per year is still fea­si­ble and has been com­mit­ted to by both Pak­istan and Turk­menistan through a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing signed by the four coun­tries in 2010. How­ever, any progress on the project would de­pend on the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan.

South Asian coun­tries, es­pe­cially Pak­istan, must im­prove elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity on an im­me­di­ate ba­sis for their in­dus­trial devel­op­ment. The writer is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and for­mer ed­i­tor of Southasia Mag­a­zine.

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