Another ribbon ceremony on another power plant in one week. Both projects, namely the two extra turbines installed in the Guddu thermal plant in Sindh, and the second phase of the Uch gas power generation facility in Balochistan seem to be consistent with PML-N’s commitment to solve the energy crisis. But merely putting on a show is not going to convince anyone that Pakistan has moved past the shortage. There is no denying that apart from the security situation, the biggest problem that Pakistan faces at this moment is the energy crisis. Our crippled economy and the lack of development are all predicated on an overall shortage of energy that makes everything stagnant. The extension of the Guddu power project stands to bring 747 MW to the national grid and the Uch II will add another 400. But the inauguration does not mean that power generation has begun. The work on the Guddu plant was completed earlier than was expected, but the fuel source that will be used is still not decided. Pakistan is currently relying on the Asian Development Bank for a loan to fund obtaining the fuel source, and the ADB’s insistence that we import coal is not going to make things any easier.
With regards to the Uch power plants (phase I and phase II), it is both a good and bad idea for gas to be used from local pipelines. This means that the government will be able save on money that would have been used to import expensive LNG (since no other deal for importing gas is in place) from Qatar, but at the same time, the insurgency in Balochistan makes it risky investment; supply could become unstable at any point.
Pakistan’s economy now stands on the brink, with potential growth within its grasp if production can somehow be increased. The textile industry’s increased importance and the GSP Plus status can only be used to full effect if the industries have enough power to run at full capacity. Their recent plea to the government to increase gas and electricity allocated proves that more could be exported if enough resources were available to the textile producers. The government has obviously not managed to keep their promise of ending the load shedding in six months, but substantial improvements to the electricity grid have been made. The real question though is whether these upgrades will function the way they are supposed to and whether the initiatives of the government will be enough to deliver the 6,000MW shortage we are faced with.