Monday, 14 February 2011

Energising Gilgit Baltistan, Engineer Hussain Ahmad Siddiqui

Energising Gilgit Baltistan, Engineer Hussain Ahmad Siddiqui

ARTICLE (January 20, 2011) : For long neglected, the remote Gilgit-Baltistan region is poised for economic development as the government has launched an ambitious plan to construct a number of small hydropower plants to meet the growing demand of electricity for the agro-based industry, mineral-mining, tourism and trade, on a sustainable basis. To accelerate the pace of hydropower development, the Gilgit-Baltistan Electricity Development Company is being established shortly.

Gilgit-Baltistan, rich in water resources, has tremendous potential for hydropower generation, estimated to be over 40,000 MW on Indus River and its main tributaries. In addition, the hydropower potential of 1,200 MW exists on sub-tributaries, rivers and streams. The region is not connected with the national grid due to its mountainous terrain, non-availability of high-power transmission line system and extreme weather conditions. It has an isolated network for power transmission and distribution. It is now planned to construct a 132-kv regional grid for interconnecting all existing and future power stations, for which a feasibility report has been finalized.

At present, a total of 98 small, mini and minor hydropower stations are in operation in the Gilgit-Baltistan, with cumulative installed capacity of 133 MW. Only about half of the 1.8 million- populace, which is spread on an area of 72,971 square kilometers, has access to the electricity. The region, called globally as "Roof of the World", has one of the lowest, even by Pakistani standards, per capita annual electricity consumption of 300 kWh.

The power supply does not meet the present demand that is in the range of 200 MW to 300 MW, resulting in substantial shortfall and thus load-shedding. It is projected that power demand would increase to 500 MW by the year 2015 and over 860 MW by 2030. There is therefore a need to optimise the exploitation and use of hydropower, which is renewable, clean energy resource and provides least-cost power generation compared to any other energy resource. Power generation cost of the installed power stations in Gilgit-Baltistan works out to be around three Cents per unit.

Pursuant to the declared policy of the government of Pakistan, hydropower stations of less than 50-MW capacity are being established at the regional level. Currently, 29 hydropower stations of total capacity of 40 MW are under construction, whereas another 13 small hydropower schemes are at various stages of implementation. Major projects are 20-MW Hanzal Gilgit River, 20-MW Chowari Shyok, Ghanche, 16-MW Naltar-III and 14-MW Naltar-V. These run-of-the-river type projects entail minimal re-settlement impacts.

In a latest development, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has agreed, in principle, to finance hydropower projects in the region. In the first phase, two projects have been identified to be constructed under ADB financing. A 26-MW power plant will be constructed at Shaghartang, Skardu, whereas the other power station, of 4-MW capacity, will be located at Thak, Chilas. Project feasibility reports, including the technical, financial, social and environmental studies, have been completed. ADB is expected to approve these first-ever hydropower projects in the area within two months.

Pakistan WAPDA has recently commissioned a 16-MW Satpara, Skardu hydropower station. Currently, it is developing two power projects in Skardu, namely 28-MW Basho and 42-MW Harpo. WAPDA is also working on various mega hydropower projects in Gilgit-Baltistan, of cumulative capacity of 18,720 MW. There are another 27 hydropower projects of total capacity of 248 MW under various stages of planning at the GB government level. As many as 136 potential sites have been identified, and technical and economic parameters defined, with the help of national and international consultants. Hydropower projects at these sites, with an estimated potential of total over 500 MW, could be economically developed.

"Gilgit-Baltistan Hydel and Renewable Energy Policy 2007" aims at promoting hydropower development projects of up to 50-MW capacity in public sector as well as under public-private partnership for which various fiscal and financial incentives are offered to the prospective investors. The private sector should optimally avail the immense opportunities available for constructing hydropower stations in the region.

(The writer is retired Chairman of State Engineering Corporation, is currently Vice President of the Institution of Engineers, Pakistan)

No comments: