FAISALABAD - Berkeley Associate Chief Executive Dr Tahir Masood has said that hydel generation should be utilised to overcome loadshedding and to ensure availability of cheap electricity to general public.

While addressing a seminar on "Promotion of renewable energy resources in Pakistan" at FCCI, he said that the hydel power generation projects needs huge capital and long gestation period while on the contrary, the thermal units are being completed with less cost and shortest possible time period. Comparing the hydel and thermal electricity, he said that hydel electricity is the safest, cheapest and environment-friendly but it has its own handicaps as during the winter season, it production is reduced to the minimum due to the low availability of water in storage dams. On the contrary, the thermal power houses only needs a one month period for annual repair and maintenance to give continues electricity during the remaining period of the year.

He also underlined the importance of multiple purpose storage dams which could store flood waters and save huge losses caused to the infrastructure every year particularly along the river belts. Dr Tahir said that Pakistan has total installed capacity of 25,000MW of electricity out of which 13,000MW is generated by public and remaining 11,000MW by private sector units. He said that the total shortfall between supply and demand of electricity is 5,000MW which is being fulfilled by installing small and used generators who have minimum efficiency level. According to an estimate, this factor is generally ignored by the government that these generators working in unorganised sectors are producing electricity that cost Rs30 per unit. "It is actually a national loss which could be overcome by bridging this gap with cheapest hydel or thermal electricity", he added.

He further said, “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has the maximum potential to produce at least 25000MW of cheapest hydro electricity followed by Gilgit and Baltistan from where we could generate 21000MW of electricity.” Commenting on Kala Bagh Dam, he said it is not fair to put all important issues on the government who has its own political constraints. He said the business community and chambers from all over the country should pool their energies and pressurise the government to start work on this project of national importance.

He said that present government has taken positive steps to overcome loadshedding. He mentioned three LNG based projects including Balloki, Bhikkhi and Haweli Bahadar Shah and said that these projects have entirely changed the bench marks of mega energy projects. He said that these projects have been completed within shortest possible time and these are producing cheap electricity as compared to the other similar projects.

Responding to a question, he said, “At least 40 percent energy in other developed countries is being produced through coal while in Pakistan its ratio is only 1 percent, despite of the fact that we have huge coal reserves in Thar (Sindh).”

He also mentioned the recently commissioned coal-fired Sahiwal power project and said that it needs 8000 ton of imported coal per day for which it will require daily 60 to 70 dedicated coal trains. He said, “Despite of using imported coal, we should prefer to use the local coal which will save millions of dollars in the shape of foreign exchange.”

Earlier, FCCI Vice President Engineer Ahmed Hassan mentioned the untapped potential of approximately 100,000 mega watt of cheap and clean hydro electricity and said that the previous governments committed criminal negligence and failed to exploit this potential to meet the energy needs of Pakistan. He said, “Over emphasis on oil and gas for electricity generation is harming our economy in a number of ways, which also posing serious threats to the environment.”

“If we want to develop economically and raise our living standards at least 50,000MW of electricity should be added in the system during next 15 years with a primary focus on renewable energy sources,” he suggested.

He said construction of Bhasha, Dasu and Bunji (16,000MW) dams is on a fast track, adding that Basha must not be delayed any further as delay in Basha is costing the economy over $3 billion per annum. FCCI Senior Vice President Rana Sikander Azam offered “vote of thanks” and assured that FCCI will continue to organise such informative seminars in future.