Zuhair Ali Khan

Every sector of life in a country comes to a complete stand still in the absence of a steady and consistent power supply. Energy, in every sense of the word, is considered the lifeline of a country’s socio-economic and human development. Pakistan, is no exception to the rule and for many years has faced and still faces an acute energy shortage despite its governments continually promising the provision of a permanent solution to the energy crises plaguing the country.

All of that is about to change when power generation using Thar’s coal reserves commences in early 2019. In the given energy scenario in Pakistan, coal is the only readily available indigenous and inexpensive alternate energy resource, which has the potential to not only ensure self-sufficiency in energy sector but also turn Pakistan into a power exporting country. Progress on all fronts of the project including construction activities, overburden removal, infrastructure and community reach initiatives remains ahead of schedule. Sindh Engro Coal Mining Corporation (SECMC) and Engro Powergen Thar Limited (EPTL), are ahead of schedule in Thar Block II to achieve its COD in May of 2019, while first electron will be produced from the power house in December this year.

As the pioneering project in Thar, Block II has a vital role to play in further development of Thar and resolution energy crisis in Pakistan. Not only that, expansion plans are already in motion to increase the scope of mining activities to other blocks of Thar coalfields making them comparable to other large-scale mines in the world. The experts are of the view that little less than one per cent of the Thar Coal reserves, 1.57 billion tons can generate upto6,000 MWs of electricity for next 50 years, and one can well measure that how much energy Pakistan would have on utilization of the entire coal reserve of 175 billion tons

Pakistan‘s coal power generation is expected to increase up to 20,000MW under the Vision-2030 Strategic Plan. The Governments of Pakistan and Sindh are actively inviting the local and foreign investors to come forward to invest in the Pakistan’s coal power projects. The government has also devised a plan to generate 10,000 MW of electricity from Thar Coal by the year 2020. While, a 232 kms of Thar-Matiari 500kv transmission line is close to completion mark.

The Sindh Coal and Energy Department has been able to attract two large Chinese energy companies like China Three Georges Corporation and Orient Group in Thar Coal Projects and also signed a memorandum of understating (MoU) with them. Both the companies have shown interest in developing coal-based power plants in Thar and Badin coal fields as well. The Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) has completed a feasibility report by engaging world’s renowned company RWE of Germany and Sinocoal of China for coal plants. Various institutions are collaborating under the Thar Coal Energy Board led by the Sindh Chief Minister to maximize coal power in Thar to reduce dependence on oil import for power generation. Since Pakistan has no new mega hydel power project to be ready for generation in near future, the coal could prove to be an ultimate solution to end the persisting energy shortfall in the country.

For their part, the companies involved in coal mining activities in Sindh are fully committed to ensuring that Thar fulfills its destiny to become energy capital of Pakistan and its people have access to quality education, health care and enjoy a quality of life second to none. The companies together with the Government of Sindh have come together to form the Thar Foundation, a not for profit trust that plans to make sustainable interventions in the fields of healthcare, education, infrastructure, women empowerment, livelihood, and disaster management while at the same time working to preserve local heritage and promote culture of Thar. To sum up, Thar has the definite potential to be the energy capital of Pakistan.