Alternate energy’s humble start
Finally, the renewable energy resources seem to be making a footprint, albeit with little impact on the troubled energy sector that is pulling down gross domestic product by over three per cent.
At the grass roots, renewable energy efforts have started changing lives of poorest of the households in remote villages in coastal Sindh where even provision of clean drinking water remains a luxury, not a basic human necessity.
In Jhampir, a small town in Thatta District of Sindh and about 114 kilometres from Karachi, a 50mw wind power project of Fauji Foundation Energy Limited is ready to formally feed into the national grid later this month on commercial basis. The project completed at a cost of about $135 million is scheduled to be inaugurated today (December 24). The same company is working on two more projects of equivalent capacity.
Being some of the early birds, the FFC has been able to secure a favourable electricity tariff of about 16 cents per unit which may
sound higher when compared with cheaper hydropower and gas based power generation. But given the fact that renewable technologies are not readily available in the country, the government and the regulators were inclined to promote renewable energy resources.
Similarly, most of other wind energy projects currently in progress would also get an upfront levelised tariff of about 14.7 cents per unit (kwh). A total of 12 wind energy projects with a combined capacity of about 1000mw are in different stages of implementation.
By end of January 2013, a $143-million, 55mw wind power project by Zurlu Energy of Turkey is scheduled to come into commercial production. This is part of the Asian Development Bank funded $510 million Renewable Energy Development Sector Investment programme in Pakistan. Zurlu would get an upfront tariff of about 13.4 cents per unit.
The project is currently in testing phase and waiting for formal approval process from the government to start commercial production. The Zurlu project spreads over an area of 1150 acres and involves a total of 34 windmills. The independent engineers are expected in few days to issue formal certificates.
“We have completed all the physical and technical stages and currently waiting for the government to allow us commercial operation. It’s just a formality now and we hope to start commercial operation by end of next month”, Mumtaz Hassan, the country manager for Zurlu Energy told a group of visiting journalists.
As such, a total of 106mw of wind energy would make a tiny contribution to the national electricity grid that faces up to 6000mw of shortfall in peak consumption periods.
But that is just the beginning. According to Naeem Memon of the Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB), the Gharo-Keti
Bundar wind corridor that spans over 100kilometre and 70 kilometre wide area had the confirmed viable energy generation
potential of 45,000mw as per international standards, although overall potential far exceeds 100,000mw.
He said a total of 24 wind power projects had so far been identified, half of them in various stages of implementation. The national electric power regulatory authority had approved tariff for 11 of them while AEDB had allocated land for 16 projects.
Hassan added surveys and wind collection acceptable to international lenders and investors was currently also in progress in Balochistan’s coastal area including Gwadar and Naukundi.
Turkish representative of Zurlu Caner Cakmak explained that while on paper the potential may seem to be great to the extent of resolving Pakistan’s energy needs but this has to be kept in mind that wind energy was subject to variation in wind pressure and hence could only be considered as substitute for peak summer shortfall when hydropower generation reduced and wind blew a maximum velocity in Jhampir region.
Up to five per cent of renewable contribution in the total energy supply is generally considered as viable, he said. Therefore, Pakistan, like similar other nations, should aim for only up to seven per cent of renewable energy contribution.
“More than seven per cent is very risky”, he said, adding wind pressure in the Jhampir belt was of second class for which 80 metre high poles were required to get optimum electricity generation.
Zurlu plans to increase its generation to about 300mw depending on successful future negotiations.
AEDB representative Naeem Memon said the country would get a carbon credit of about 95,000 tonnes of CO2 at the rate of about 2-4 euros per ton, down from about 13 euros per ton a couple of years ago. The carbon credit rates are currently on lower side.An increase in the lease rates by the Sindh government could have negative impact on wind energy. The federal government had leased 1150 acres of land to Zurlu, FFC and some others at the rate of Rs5000 per acre per year for first 10 years, down to Rs1000 per acre per year for the subsequent 10 years and then Rs2000 per acre for last 10 years of the project life.
The revision in lease rates by the Sindh government has been on the higher side. According to new rates, the government would charge Rs15 per square yard per year, going up to Rs30 per square yard for next 10 years and then Rs50 per square yard in the last 10 years.
“This is not acceptable to investors. They have rejected new rates”, said Memon, adding the AEDB had taken up the issue with the provincial government for downward revision.
Under a similar community development project for Sindh coastal areas, the AEDB is working with Sindh government, International Union for Conservation of Nature and National Rural Support Programme to provide solar energy solution to poorest of the population in Badin and Thatta Districts.
Over 79 per cent population in these two districts currently live below poverty line, according to Sindh Coastal Development Authority.
Tens of community organisations have been set up with the help of local population (fishermen) in many villages and mudplates in Gharo and Keti Bundar and adjoining coastal area for solar home lighting and small scale intervention for roads, public toilets and livelihood creation.
For example, Ramazan, a 30-year-old fisherman of Kharyoon mud plate surrounded by a couple of creeks is happy to have a solar panel to light his two bulbs and recharge his mobile phone. The 32-house-mud plate, Kharyoon, is among many other similar small villages like Hayat Jat, Ramazan Perozani, Saleh Karmoo, where small scale interventions are making a difference.
Villagers in these areas who have no other source of livelihood except fishery and had to carry drinking water on boats from far flung areas about 12 kilometres away, now have a desalination plant for purification of water at Keti Bundar.
The irony of events and negligence by successive rulers could, however, be gauged from the fact that Keti Bundar Port that used to provide grants out of its surplus funds to Karachi Municipality about 40 years ago has become extinct, and people there have to live on external subsistence.