LAHORE – Though Punjab facing a whooping electricity shortfall of 4,000 megawatts, the provincial government has only manage to start a 2.5 MW power generation project while several higher capacity projects could not be initiated due to financial and legal constraints, sources told TheNation on Tuesday.

The only project which is expected to be completed before the general elections is the distribution of 200,000 solar bulbs among students. The sources said that an agreement with a Chinese company is expected in a month or so and distribution process will start after 60 days of the agreement. 

The Punjab Energy Department, set up some 18 months ago, could not do anything to narrow the gap between demand and supply, citing the staff shortage and lack of funds.

The Punjab Law Department also hindered the proceedings of the energy department by objecting to the tariff proposed for the on paper projects. With existing circumstances, the department is not expected to start work on any ventureeven by the end of next year.   “A draft prepared by the Energy Department for fixing tariff has been rejected by the law department,” said the sources, adding that in such a situation no private company would invest in any project. 

After the approval of 18th Amendment, which empowers the provinces to set up their own power generation plants of up to 50 MW, Punjab established its energy department and allocated Rs10 billion this year in addition to the Rs9 billion of the previous year to it.  Sources say that the budget allocated for various energy projects had not been channelled to the department, leaving it unable make appointments on many key posts.

The Energy Department has completed feasibility studies of five hydel projects of 25MW. These projects have been suggested to be launched in Pakpattan, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura and Okara.

The collective cost of the projects is $130 millionbut the work has started on a single project in Pakpattan.The other 60 projects proposed by the department with joint generation capacity of 1,800MW are pending.

The Taunsa Hydro Power Project with generating capacity of 120MWhas been neglected since April 2011.

The department also proposed five other hydel power projects of 55MW. They are supposed to be financed by private-public partnership. Butno company has shown interest for investingin the projects.  The Punjab government has created Punjab Power Development Company Limited to get finances for the projects, but it could not attract investors so for.