China rescues the Pakistani Power Sector, Reports China Economic Net

Islamabad, September 7 (INP): In mid-2013, power outages were at their worst as consumers were enduring up to 13 to 14 hours of blackouts daily when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government was elected to govern.

According to a feature-report, published by China Economc Net on Saturday, before that, during the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)’s tenure between 2008 and 2013, the condition was much worse and many of the areas either remained without electricity for most of the day and night or had it for a limited number of hours each day.

Power cuts, or as they are generally called, loadshedding, were at their peak and people were boiling with anger as the incredibly high summer temperatures made it impossible for people to continue with their daily affairs. It was then that the PPP government initiated Rental Power Projects, which has now been embroiled in a legal battle at an international forum and the former Pakistani officials are standing trial on charges of corruption and corrupt practices in Pakistan.

In April 2019, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) bound Pakistan to post cash security of US$150 million by April 30, 2019, as a condition for extension of stay of enforcement. Pakistan had lost the case in the World Bank’s ICSID in 2017, which was filed by the Turkish power company — Karkey Karadeniz Elektrik Uretim — a company involved in provision of floating power generation facilities.

As the PML-N government took charge, it promised to, initially, reduce the power outages, and, ultimately, provide uninterrupted power supply. However, in the summer of 2017, the consumers once again faced a somewhat similar situation. It continued and the country faced an electricity shortfall in the summer of 2018 as well. Things got a little better in between but headed for the worst once the general elections were announced in 2018. On the last day in power, ex-Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif was quoted as saying that “he would not be responsible for any load-shedding in the province from tomorrow onward.” He continued: “At midnight, the government is completing its term. If there is load-shedding tomorrow, do not hold me accountable.” In his speech, Shehbaz had took credit for bringing the power cuts down to a minimum, especially during the holy month of Ramzan, saying “we are now absolved from our responsibility, now it is up to you to deal with it.”

In both PML-N’s and PPP’s cases, one wonders how the parties could absolve themselves from responsibility after they governed the country for five years each and left it in a situation where it could hardly stay put for a day. The answer lies in simple truth: there was less focus on finding a permanent solution. When the entire country was facing extreme temperatures, the leaders blamed each other and took credit for trivial things instead of admitting their shortcomings.

The solution to the power shortfall eventually came from China and was announced by Chinese ambassador to Pakistan in June 2018. “Load shedding in 2013 was 7 to 8 hours, and now there is no load shedding in Islamabad and the credit goes to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC),” he said. The ambassador was right when he said that CPEC is proving essential in curbing the electricity deficit in Pakistan as six energy power plants were completed under CPEC and the multi-billion dollar project is the guarantor of prosperity not only for Pakistan but the entire region and regional central Asian countries.

CPHGC & HUBCO Power Plant begins commercial operation

Another testament to the Chinese interest in eradicating electricity’s shortfall came when a delegation of China Power Hub Generation Company (CPHGC), led by CEO Zhao Yonggang, met Prime Minister Imran Khan at the PM Office and apprised him about the progress made on the CPEC project for installation of 1320MW (660×2) power plant in Hub, Balochistan. In the meeting, Yonggang informed PM Khan that the project’s first state-of-the-art and environment friendly unit has successfully been synchronized with the national grid and all tests required for commissioning of the first unit were completed on Aug 14, 2019. While appreciating the development, the premier reiterated his government’s commitment to facilitate investors venturing into Pakistan and encouraged CPHGC to set up waste-to-energy power plants in Pakistan.

The government had approved the processing of a 1,320MW imported coal-based power project at Hub in November 2014, when loadshedding was at its peak, while the joint venture of HUBCO and CPHGC was issued a letter of intent in June 2015. The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority had approved upfront tariff for the power project in February 2016. The project’s two units achieved synchronization with the National Grid on December 28, 2018 and May 28, 2019, respectively, while the Integrated Coal Jetty became operational in December 2018 with the arrival of the first shipment of coal. Currently, HUBCO produces over 2,920MW through its four plants spread over Balochistan, Punjab and Azad Jammu & Kashmir. The power generation capacity of the company will be enhanced to over 3,580MW once its three under-construction projects listed under CPEC — Thar Energy Limited (TEL), Thalnova Power Thar (Pvt) Ltd, and Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) at Thar Block II — are completed.

The CPHGC & HUBCO power plant project was estimated to cost $2 billion. According to the government, M/s CPHGC successfully carried out thorough commissioning tests as per the agreed procedure and added the much needed boost in the power sector. In August this year, the coal-fired power project under CPEC became commercially operational. The joint venture of the companies had made the announcement of starting the 1,320MW imported coal power plant saying the plant has the integrated jetty with coal transshipment capacity of 4.2 million tons per annum.

Seeing the corruption-related news every now and then and keeping in view the Rental Power Project case and Nandipur Power project, it was a pleasant surprise to note that the project was not only developed in record time as per schedule, but within the projected costs. Being labeled as an early harvest energy project under CPEC framework and being the source of reducing the population’s difficulties and challenges, the CPHGC project is truly a project of national and strategic significance.

The plant will add 9 billion kWh of electricity to the national grid every year, meeting the electricity needs of four million households in the country and will provide massive relief to its beneficiaries who will no longer have to plan their daily routine as per the loadshedding schedule. They will not be facing unannounced loadshedding and will not have to invest their hard-earned money in buying the alternative appliances, like UPS’s and solar inverters to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity.

“The successful completion of the CPHGC project has fortified the dream of energy independence of Pakistan. Since the synchronization earlier in May, we conducted extensive testing of the systems to make sure we deliver quality while keeping HSE [health, safety & Environment] as our top-priority. I am glad that this Pak-China synergy has resulted in engineering excellence and has fulfilled our promise of providing Pakistan with affordable and ample energy” HUBCO CEO Khalid Mansoor was quoted as saying by the Pakistan-China Institute & China Radio International’s website.

In addition to making vital contributions to meeting the power demand, it must also be noted that the project has also delivered on various social commitments for improving the lives of the local community of Hub and Lasbella in Balochistan. Together with its partners, the website revealed, CPHGC has set up a school in Gadani, a floating jetty for fishermen in Abbas Village, and conducted various training and development programs for the local youth of Balochistan. Now this is what you call truly amazing aspects of progress. Long live CPEC, and long live Pakistan and China friendship!

INP/JAVED