Editorial - Power solutions - Monday, March 28, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=38611&Cat=8

With a conference on alternative power solutions and Prime Minister Gilani looking at purchasing surplus power from the Central Asian Republics (CARs), it looks like at last a more holistic approach to the power problem is emerging. Alternative energy - solar, wind, wave – has long been discussed as a way out of some of our power provision problems. A problem has been that local skills in remote areas have not matched the maintenance needs of, for instance, the solar scheme introduced in Hunza about 15 years ago. The project quickly fell into ruin. Cost then as now was another factor – the startup costs of alternative energy schemes of all types are very high compared to conventional power. A decade and a half later, and staring a major power crisis in the eye, we are going to have to re-visit alternative energy. As the Pakistan Alternative Power Expo 2011 was told by a speaker on Thursday, solar energy is probably our best bet in terms of achievability. Technologies have moved on, as have communities, and we need to consider a ‘mixed economy’ of power – with solar and biomass working alongside conventional power producers. Currently about 40 percent of our power is produced using expensive imported oil – and with instability in the oil-producing nations pushing the price of crude oil ever higher, the hunt for an alternative gains urgency.

Power provision in the short term, augmenting our existing and wholly inadequate supply, is proving ever more problematical. There is a curious silence about the two ‘power ships’ that are tied up in Karachi, and no word as to when either or preferably both, are going to be putting volts down the wires. We heard the president in his recent speech to the joint session of parliament refer to two large dam projects, but these may be a decade off completion. Thus, the news that the PM has offered to buy surplus electricity from the CARs deserves a cautious welcome. The CARs are something of an unexploited opportunity for ourselves hitherto, and it is timely that we are looking at expanding our trading links with Uzbekistan – with energy purchase being an area where if not a quick fix then a fix in the foreseeable future, is a possibility. Summer is upon us and the power-cuts are already being felt. What is needed is a unified power strategy that both manages the short-term and plans for the medium and the long in ways that transcend party politics and provincial rivalry. The alternative power providers and the conventional providers need to be looking at complementarity – there is going to be no single solution to our power crisis.

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