Experts for promoting integrated long-term energy planning

Energy experts in a policy roundtable have urged the government to promote integrated long-term planning in the energy sector and check gaps in the management and implementation capacity of energy projects, especially those related to CPEC. The event, held on Tuesday, titled 'Pakistan's Energy Sector: Status and Prospects' was mainly addressed by Syed Akhter Ali, who has remained a part of the policy and planning process recently as member energy in the Planning Commission.

Event was chaired by Ashfaq Mahmood, former secretary, Ministry of Water & Power. The key speakers included former federal secretaries and energy policy analysts Masud Daher and Salahuddin Rifai and IPS associates Brigadier Said Nazir (retrd.) and Ameena Sohail. Former Secretary Water and Power, Ashfaq Ahmad was of the view that 4500 MW Diamer-Bhasha Dam should have been the top priority of energy managers vis-à-vis CPEC stratification and negotiations but so far this most critical hydropower and water storage project has remained at the backburner.

He commented that the sovereign guarantees for up to 30 years against tariff regimes cannot allow a competitive market for power generation. A roadmap must be devised for it as in developed countries electricity is sold and purchased in the open market and this is much needed in Pakistan as well.

However, former Member (Energy) Planning Commission, Akhtar Ali claimed that with the smaller projects the Chinese were 'testing the waters' in Pakistan and now the funds for Diamer-Bhasha project, either completely or partly, would come through CPEC and/or PSDP. WAPDA has already submitted feasibility for it.

Syed Akhtar Ali was of the view that though there were still serious and chronic governance issues the energy sector was faced with, there was a silver lining that the multiple actors and forces in the regulatory regime are interacting gradually towards institutionalisation of policy decisions and issues related to tariff allocation. He was of the view that provincial representation in Nepra Board should be done away with, adding technical experts should be appointed as members of the Authority.

He said the target to increase 10,000 MW by 2018 would be achieved by the end of incumbent government's term. However distribution capacity issues will not allow an end to load shedding. The future financial implications, in terms of debt and foreign exchange liabilities, were also yet to be realised. He opposed the government's decision to give administrative control of regulatory bodies to the line ministries.

He suggested that Nepra should do away with generation licensing requirement and introduce market operator and electricity trading. He further recommended that the government should develop national electricity plan and tariff policy and set up appellate tribunals to hear appeals against Nepra determinations and orders.

It was revealed that except for some modelling efforts done by Asian Development Bank (ADB), there has been no serious attempt ever in Pakistan for an integrated energy planning through which the future energy demands could be estimated according to economic growth.