Friday, May 5, 2017
One Third Of Pakistan Has No Electricity But Massive Coal Reserves So It Is Building Coal Fired Electric Plants And Greenies Go Nuts
"Pakistan must tap these unutilised vast underground reserves of 175 billion tonnes of coal, adequate to meet the country's energy needs for several decades," minister says
By Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio
ISLAMABAD, May 3 (Thomson Reuters
Foundation) - With much of the world pouring
investments into renewable and clean energy,
Pakistan is drawing criticism for welcoming
Chinese investment in coal-fired power
plants as part of a plan to boost urgently
needed generating capacity.
Officials at the Water and Power Ministry
have said Chinese companies and their
partners are expected to spend around
$15 billion over the next 15 years to
build close to a dozen coal power plants
of varying sizes around the country.
Mohammed Younus Dagha, the former
federal secretary for water and power,
who became commerce secretary at the
end of March, emphasised that the coal
plants are part of a larger plan.
That is the $54 billion China Pakistan
Economic Corridor (CPEC), which
includes spending of about $33 billion
on a total of 19 energy projects, including
coal-fired and renewable power plants,
transmission lines, and other infrastructure.
"Hefty investment under the CPEC project
has held out hopes of significantly spiking
domestic power generation (by) around
6,000 megawatts by the end of 2018,"
Combined, the projects will eventually
generate 16,000 megawatts (MW) of
electricity, which the government says is
About three-quarters of the newly generated
power will come from coal-powered plants,
and the government insists that these will
be fitted with the latest technology to
reduce pollution and climate-changing
But environmentalists and energy experts
have lambasted the plans for coal-fired plants
as a waste of money that will badly damage
the environment and tarnish Pakistan's
image as one of the lowest-carbon emitters.
"Such plants would only accelerate the
rising trajectory of the country's carbon
emissions, (accelerating) environmental
degradation that costs billions of rupees
to the national exchequer annually," said
Syed Jawad Hussain Shahzad, an energy
expert at the Comsats Institute of Information
Technology in Islamabad.
Pakistan has long needed more power than
it can produce, with the energy deficit
currently around 4,000 MW. According
to the International Energy Agency (IEA),
average energy demand in the country is
around 19,000 MW, against generation
of around 15,000 MW.
Demand soars beyond 20,000 MW during
peak summer months of May to July, when
air conditioning systems place an extra
burden on the national power grid, often
causing power cuts.
The IEA forecasts that total electricity
demand will rise to more than 49,000 MW
by 2025 as the country's population increases.
Only 67 percent of Pakistan's approximately
190 million people have access to electricity,
according to the World Bank.
To improve access and keep pace with
economic growth, the country needs to
invest between 3.7 percent and 5.5 percent
of its GDP each year in increasing electrical
production, the bank said in a report on
South Asian infrastructure published in
2013. Part of the motivation for building
coal-powered plants lies in the availability
of the fuel within Pakistan.
The federal minister for planning, development
and reform, Ahsan Iqbal, said that the
sprawling desert region of Tharparkar in
southern Pakistan, home to some of the
world's largest coal reserves, cannot be
"Pakistan must tap these unutilised vast
underground reserves of 175 billion tonnes
of coal, adequate to meet the country's
energy needs for several decades, for
powering the country's economic wheel,
creating new jobs, and fighting spiking
unemployment and poverty," Iqbal said.
Pakistan currently ranks 135th in the list
of global emitters of carbon on a per capita
basis, accounting for less than 1 percent
of total global carbon emissions, according
to World Bank data.
According to the report submitted by
Pakistan to the U.N. Framework Convention
on Climate Change last year, the country's
emissions in 2015 stood at 405 metric tonnes
of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2 eq.).
However, emissions are increasing at a rate
of 3.9 percent (16 MTCO2 eq.) annually.
Iqbal touts the green credentials of the
planned coal power plants, which will
use the latest "supercritical" emission-reducing
technology that is used in China itself and
"The latest coal power plants (will) be as
clean as gas-based power generation," Iqbal
insisted. "(They) require less coal per
megawatt-hour, leading to lower emissions,
including carbon dioxide and mercury,
higher efficiency and lower fuel costs
RISKS OF WORSENING CLIMATE
Nevertheless, independent renewable
energy experts say the government's
love affair with coal power plants is
a huge worry.
"No sane person would want electricity from
dirty energy sources, even though supercritical
technology is used," said Malik Amin
Aslam, a former state minister for the
environment who serves as global
vice-president of the International
Union for Conservation of Nature.
"These plants, not being completely
free of carbon emissions, will still harm
the public health and the country's environment," he said.
Pakistan is considered one of the countries
most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,
from worsening floods and scalding summer
temperatures to erratic rainfall that can kill
China's ambassador to Pakistan, Sun
Weidong, stressed that coal power is
only part of the projects China is
supporting through its investment in CPEC.
"We are equally helping Pakistan to
bring more and more renewable energy
sources into its energy mix by tapping
its massive wind and solar energy
potential," Sun said.
Planned renewable energy projects
under CPEC include a solar park, four
wind farms and three hydro plants that
together would generate around 3,900 MW,
at a cost of about $7.5 billion
According to the Pakistan Alternative
Energy Development Board, Pakistan has
the potential to generate annually
2.9 million MW of clean energy from
solar, 340,000 MW from wind and
100,000 MW from hydropower.
"We really fail to fathom the government's
inclination towards environmentally
damaging coal power plants while the
country can generate millions of
megawatts of solar, wind and hydro
electricity," said Mir Ahmad Shah,
executive secretary of the Pakistan
Renewable and Alternative Energy
"Even countries like Saudi Arabia –
rich in oil resources – are gradually
switching over to clean energy sources,"
(Reporting by Saleem Shaikh and Sughra
Tunio; editing by James Baer and Laurie
Goering :; Please credit the Thomson
Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm
of Thomson Reuters, that covers
humanitarian news, climate change,
resilience, women's rights, trafficking
and property rights.