PM on lopsided energy policy

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Addressing a public meeting at Chilas after the unveiling the plaque of Diyamer Basha Dam, Prime Minister Imran Khan said the electricity generation policy of 1990s was entirely based on expensive fossil fuel, which had rocked the industrial base of the country and hindered its growth. He assured that in future more big dams shall be constructed for cheap hydel power generation to achieve optimal energy mix and provide electricity at reasonably low tariff to all categories of consumers. It is pertinent to mention that Federal Cabinet has deferred decision on increasing power tariff in its meeting held the other day. The Prime Minister did not refer to the power generation policy of last PML-N government which not only pursued firmly the same lopsided policy thermal power generation in private sector by allowing 8 cents per unit tariff for coal based generation but also kept a window of kickbacks open in the construction cost of hydel power generation projects, which will affect the power tariff in future. These projects include Suki Kinari, Mahal, Azad Pattan and Kohala. The construction cost of the projects is 2-4 times more than the reference cost of the World Bank funded Dasu hydropower project. It is still not clear as to whether the present government has taken into account this aspect of highly inflated construction cost, while awarding contracts for Kohala and Azad Pattan hydropower projects. Perhaps the Prime Minister may have not seen the draft of future power generation policy finalised by NDTC, is titled towards expensive thermal power generation and against the usage of clean renewable sources. The proposed a 27 year Integrated Generation Capacity Expansion Plan (IGCEP 2020-47), puts on the backburner electricity generation from the locally available renewable sources such as hydel on the premise that completion of hydel power stations takes fairly long time. The plan document does not mention another potential source like installation of wind mills. It brings to the front burner setting up health hazardous; climate change impact exacerbating and high tariff coal based power plants. Ironically, power generation component of Diyamer Basha dam has been delayed from 2028 to 2043. Perhaps the repeated critique of Prime Minister on high cost of fossil fuel for electricity generation was not in the mind of framers of IGCEP, otherwise they would have made last minute amendment in its document. It seems that vested interest always prevail in setting priorities of power generation. Amazingly the pursuit of clean and inexpensive hydel power generation has been tacitly rejected by NDTC bureaucracy on the premise that hydropower plants have operational life span of 30 to 50 years, ignoring the bare fact that few hydel power stations including Warsak and Darrgai have been functioning for the past 70 years. Malakand P-3 of 81 megawatt was added to the Dargai power plant in 2000, which NDTC high ups very well know. The plan envisages greater reliance on coal based thermal power generation of 32,967 megawatt.