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ARTICLE: Punjab Energy Department was established to enhance energy security of the largest province of Pakistan and fuel economic growth by creating an environment that would reliably meet the energy demands of all the sectors of Punjab's economy through a sustainable and affordable energy mix and of course, its efficient use. That was the vison behind establishing this pivotal public sector department but then things get drifted away from the original goals and objectives.

Vested interests, centralized and controlled administration or one-man-show in Punjab resulted into expensive foreign fuel run mega projects, frauds and massive managerial and administrative issues. During ten years of previous regime, the department had a minister for six months only! That was the level of seriousness and governance by PML-N regime in Punjab. The prevailing state of affairs made it clear to me that the Energy department itself needs to be energized to live up to its true potential.

Almost two years ago when I took over as Minister for Energy, I found out there was ban on clean and green energy projects and there was no energy policy in place. The department was making progress only on massive media campaigns as it was a tradition in previous regime. Companies were incurring huge losses. Especially, Punjab Power Development Company (PPDCL), alone had incurred a loss of 350 million rupees over a decade since its inception in 2008. Small hydel projects which should have been completed much earlier were put into cold storage.

The much talked about Punjab Thermal Power Plant at Haveli Bahdur Shah had not been given gas by SNGPL. It is just like you purchase an aeroplane but don't have the fuel to fly it. The whole department was in shambles. My first priority was to save the public money by completing the incomplete and neglected projects in the department. Also, we decided to retrieve stolen public money of worth Rs.234 million. We set our target to convert the loss incurring entities into profit-making public sector assets.

After two years, we have been able to retrieve the stolen money from PPDCL with the help of NAB. The same company that was continuously making losses for the last ten years has turned into a profit-making asset. PPDL earned Rs.193 million during my first year as Minister of Energy due to better management and Rs.217 million during current financial year, which is a huge achievement. Similarly, in Quaid-e-Azam Solar project, we saved Rs. 62 million by rationalizing staff, better administration and continuous vigilance. It earned a profit of Rs.2.44 billion which is 37% higher than the previous years.

As far as the hydal projects are concerned, 7.46 MW Hydro Power Plant Marala and 2.82 MW Hydro Power Plant Pakpattan have been completed and inaugurated. However, 5.38 MW Hydro Power Project at Chianwali and 4.08MW Deg Outfall hydro projects will be completed by October this year. We have also identified 786 sites for mini hydel projects on various canals in Punjab with a potential of 846.379 MW to promote production of clean and cheap energy from indigenous resources. Presently, the department is facilitating 18 hydropower projects with a capacity of 264.21 MW canals, streams and rivers including 135MW Taunsa Hydropower Project.

Meanwhile, we have started a massive anti-theft campaign against electricity theft and the results have been extremely positive. Since its start in September, 2018, we have detected electricity theft of worth Rs. 4.937 billion out of which Rs. 3.315 billion has been recovered. In future, we are going for home solar solution policy with promotion of net metering, energy efficient buildings to reduce the burden from national grid. Our main thrust will be on projects based on alternative energy resources to provide cheap and clean energy to our needs.

Last but not the least, Energy Department with its thorough professional and immensely hardworking team of officers, engineers and other technical or administrative staff in the administrative department and lower formations is working with a missionary zeal towards building a Niya Pakistan as per the vision of our leadership. Long Live Pakistan!

(The writer is Minister for Energy in Punjab Cabinet. He can be reached on Twitter at PunjabEnergy)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020