Islamabad – Engineers recommended government to invest in hydel power projects and indigenous production of equipment for small-scale power generation as possible solutions to Pakistan’s energy crisis.
The suggestions came on the sidelines of the 46th annual convention of the Institution of Engineers, Pakistan (IEP) which was held at a local hotel on Saturday.
The theme of the convention, and an accompanying technical seminar, was “Exploitation of Indigenous Energy Resources including Hydel, Coal and Alternative Energy.”
Several engineers who attended the seminar seemed to favour hydel power as the best long-term solution for the country.
“We should have built a dam every 10 years, but we didn’t,” said IEP member Colonel (Retired) Khalid Mehmood, who teaches at the Fatima Jinnah Women University. “You could call it the lack of political will but we need to change this situation.”
Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) engineer Muhammad Adrees said if there are two things he would change to solve the power crisis, it would be more investment in hydel power projects and stronger foreign policy to deal with regional water issues.
“Investments in hydel projects are essential because hydropower is long-term and has the cheapest tariff,” Adrees said.
During the first technical session, Lieutenant General (Retired) Muhammad Zubair, the Chief Executive Officer of the Neelum-Jehlum Hydro Power Company, gave a talk on the current progress of the Neelum-Jehlum project.
Zubair said timely completion of the project would reduce supply-demand gap and allow the government to beat India to claiming the water rights of River Neelum. He said the main challenge for the project was financing.
The government had approved Rs24 billion till June 2013 for the project, Zubair said, but only Rs4 billion from the approved amount have materialized.
Zubair also mentioned that the Heavy Mechanical Complex (HMC), Taxila, was manufacturing 16 Megawatt (Mw) hydropower plants.
Later, several participants commented that such indigenization of machinery and technology should be promoted as it reduces export dependency and creates employment opportunities.
The engineers were of the opinion that 16Mw solutions, such as that produced by HMC, would be ideal for run-of-the-river projects. Electricity from these projects could be fed to the national grid or serve local communities in off-grid solutions, they said.
In another session, Syed Hasan Gauhar, a geologist, said the Thar coal project has become controversial because of uninformed public debate.
Gauhar said power generation from Thar coal is unlikely to be cost-effective in the conventional financial sense. But he said a case should be developed for a holistic model of coal-utilization that incorporates Thar’s people, resources and environment.
Participants said that coal-based power might not be eco-friendly but mitigation techniques could be used. They said instead of rejecting coal altogether, Pakistan should look at developing an efficient and cheap energy mix that includes coal and alternative energy power sources.
The IEP is a national organisation of professional engineers founded in 1948. It has around 50,000 members and 14 divisions which cover the various engineering disciplines, according to the IEP.