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Due to population expansion and urbanisation, Pakistan’s energy landscape radically transforms as electricity consumption rises. In 2022 the nation’s total electricity consumption reached 138,755GWh due to industrial growth and socioeconomic progress. The expansion has not, however, been strictly linear.

A considerable decline was recorded between 2018 and 2020, most likely due to economic, political, and infrastructure issues. This decline was followed by a brisk recovery, with 2021 being the highest year for consumption. Using exponential smoothing for forecasting, the predicted consumption for 2023 is around 142,897,68GWh, emphasising the continued growth velocity in the nation’s power demand. During the first eight months of the current calendar year, 91,819GWh are already consumed.

In addition to the overall growth trends, the seasonal subtleties of Pakistan’s energy usage offer essential insights. The data exhibits a pronounced cyclical trend, with consumption peaking throughout the summer. This increase is particularly noticeable in July, August, and September, coinciding with the subcontinent’s hottest months.

The higher demand during these months can be ascribed to the population’s increased usage of cooling appliances, such as air conditioners and fans, in response to rising temperatures. In contrast, electricity usage decreases by an average of 3,000GWh per month during the cooler months. This cyclical ebb and flow emphasises the significance of having a flexible and adaptable infrastructure for energy generation that can adeptly handle these seasonal variations.

Hydroelectricity plays a significant role during periods of high demand, dynamically increasing its output as the demand for cooling solutions rises. During peak months, its average output is around 4,500GWh, nearly double that of off-peak months, emphasising its versatility and vital role in maintaining grid stability.

In 2012 hydropower accounted for 38 percent of Pakistan’s total electricity production. Surprisingly, by 2022, this percentage has experienced a decline to 25 percent. Given the commissioning of new hydroelectric facilities in the prevailing decade, such a decline could initially look ludicrous.

Nonetheless, it reflects the greater diversification of the energy mix and the growing importance of alternative power sources. Regarding diversification, renewable energy, which had no presence in the point mix a decade ago, accounted for 4% of the energy mix in 2022. This achievement demonstrates Pakistan’s dedication to green and sustainable energy solutions, in line with global trends and environmental imperatives.

Looking closely at seasonal patterns, hydropower exposes its full prowess from June to November. During this period, its contribution fluctuates between 30-40 percent. As a direct result of this increase, the proportion of other energy sources decreases from its regular range of 70-80 percent to a more modest 60-70 percent. This seasonal change is notable. It indicates that during peak demand, hydropower production increases, reducing the need for more expensive thermal installations.

From April to June, renewables find their rhythm, after which hydropower takes the central stage. The cyclical nature of hydropower generation is evident when examining its decline after November, which reaches its lowest point of 11 percent in April. This cyclical trend is not a liability but a source of hydropower’s strength.

However, there’s a twist in the tale. While hydropower and renewables have been making their mark, the contribution of all other (non-renewable) energy sources has grown from 62% in 2012 to 70% in 2022. This rise underscores the challenge of balancing sustainable energy sources with the nation’s ever-growing power demands. With environmental concerns rising and the push for sustainable development gaining momentum, hydel power is at the heart of the solution. As we delve deeper into Pakistan’s energy scenario, understanding the unparalleled value of hydel power becomes vital. As promising as it sounds, hydropower hasn’t been immune to misconceptions. Addressing these myths and providing a clear, data-driven perspective is essential as the sustainable energy debate intensifies.

One of the most controversial arguments against hydropower is that it is more expensive than alternative technologies. Although the initial expenses of hydropower projects may appear enormous, the long-term economic advantages portray a different picture. Initially, tariffs are designed to cover infrastructure loan repayments, rendering them competitive with other energy sources. During the loan payback period, the average cost per kilowatt-hour for hydropower will be between 20 and 25 Pakistani Rupees. However, after this loan time, hydropower’s economic advantage becomes apparent as the tariff reduces dramatically (PKR 10-12 per kilowatt-hour). In addition, the extended economic life of hydropower plants, which extends beyond the standard 30-year concession, demonstrates the long-term economic sustainability of hydropower, with costs as low as PKR 1 to 2 per kWh during this period. Even the initial year’s cost of generating electricity from hydropower is less than the cost of imported coal and RLNG project fuel.

The second most contentious claim is that hydropower contributes to the capacity trap. Contrary to this notion, hydropower has regularly demonstrated responsiveness, particularly during peak demand. This versatility ensures that hydropower does not create capacity traps but relieves grid demand during critical times. In addition, unlike other renewable energy sources, which might be intermittent owing to varying variables such as sunlight or wind patterns, hydropower provides steady and stable energy output. Significant river basins in Pakistan maintain a regular water flow, making hydropower a pillar of grid stability.

“Hydel - A Friend in Need” is more than simply a catchphrase; it reflects a fundamental fact for a country’s energy destiny. By acknowledging the significance of hydropower and dispelling common misunderstandings, we need to appreciate its role in a sustainable energy future. Significant achievements in sustainable energy, such as hydropower, need patience and vision. Our energy future will be determined by our decisions now. Establishing a hydroelectric project can take seven to ten years and requires extensive planning, environmental assessments, and advanced infrastructure development. We must act now if we want to benefit from hydropower’s clean energy by 2030-32.

Balancing immediate energy demands with long-term sustainable solutions is crucial. Stakeholder’s commitment to hydropower shall align with global trends towards greener alternatives, paving the way for a resilient and sustainable future.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Asim Javed

The writer is a chartered management accountant working in the power sector for 23 years. He can be contacted at [email protected].

Comments

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Az_Iz Nov 05, 2023 08:35am
In addition to hydropower, Thar coal power generation should be scaled up. It costs about Rs 5 per kWh, which is the cheapest electricity produced in the country. Unfortunately a lot of power plants were built using imported coal.
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SAMIR SARDANA Nov 05, 2023 10:34am
During the loan payback period, the average cost per kilowatt-hour for hydropower will be between 20 and 25 Pakistani Rupees. However, HEP tarriff is calculated,on a levelised basis, for a 20 year life.Loan tenor is 7 to 10 years, with a 3 year moratorium, for construction.Beyond 20 years calculating the FNPV based on Marginal or Imputed cost of capital is 10-12 % is pointless as the cash flows will be discounted to zero D/E ratio for HEP i s 3 or 4 : 1 ! So a loan tenor of 2:1 or 4: 1 means that the cash shortfall to meet debt from past profits ,are met by promoter contribution ! So HEP is about Deferred Equity Contribution into HEP . The life from year 21 to 50- is a bonus ! Also,the ECONOMIC IRR and NPV, are key in HEP. Cement and Steel used in Civil Cost,which is 70-80% of Cost , are made in Pakistan ! The Economic Cost of the Steel,net of taxes and transfer pricing, is MUCH LOWER THAN THE FINANCIAL COST,used for FRR and FNPV purposes.SAMIR SARDANA
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KU Nov 05, 2023 12:31pm
True observations on hydro-power, but we have been flogging this horse for at least 4 decades now, and nothing to show for it but only political milestones during elections, especially missing out on Kalabagh dam, which to date is a criminal act. The dams or reservoirs will certainly ensure water availability and storage in the face of changing weather and reduced rains and snowfall. Yet, solar energy is a friend indeed and our future depends on it. Every sane country has realized its potential and use for households as well as industry and agriculture, the installation and usage are not time-bound, unlike hydro-power which can take 5 to 10 years to build and use.
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SAMIR SARDANA Nov 05, 2023 02:47pm
@KU, KALABAGH NEEDS CAREFUL SELLING TO SINDH AND KPK ! VESTED INTERESTS ARE SCUTTLING THE DAM ! IT MIGHT BE THE CHEAPEST DAM IN THE SOLAR SYSTEMS AS IT HAS MOUNTAINS ON 3 SIDES ! KPK FEAR CAN BE ASSUAGED BY REDUCING DAM AND RESERVOIR HEIGHT AND SPECS ! FEAR OF SINDH IS WATER DIVERSION FROM AGRI ! IS THAT REAL OR PRACTICAL ? WHAT ARE THE IRRIGATION CANALS FOR ? WATER HAS TO BE RELEASED TO MAKE POWER ! THERE IS NO OTHER WAY !!!!! WHAT POT ARE THEY SMOKING ? I WAGER A BET THAT THE FINANCIAL COST OF POWER,FROM KALABAGH, WILL JUSTIFY THE COST OF DESALINATION OF SEA WATER,TO MEET THE NEEDS OF SINDH AGRI ! THE ECONOMIC COST OF KALABAGH POWER WITH THE BENEFITS OF FLOODS AND IRRIGATION, WILL MAKE THE DESALINATION MORE VIABLE ! TARBELA AND MANGLA IS ENOUGH TO AWAKEN THE SKEPTICS ! PAKISTAN HAS A NATURAL SLOPING TILT TO THE SEA ,A NATURAL GRADIENT ! WHAT IS THE PROBLEM ?
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SAMIR SARDANA Nov 05, 2023 02:52pm
@Az_Iz, Unfortunately a lot of power plants were built using imported coal. AND THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WITH GAS AND OIL IPPs, WHO ARE SCUTTLING THE LARGE DAMS IN PAKISTAN ! THE HIGH CAPACITY CHARGE IN USD IPPs HAVE TO HAVE A ONE TIME GOODBYE KICK (OTGK). IN THE LAST 40 YEARS PAKISTAN WOULD HAVE LOST MORE 100 BILLION USD BY NOT SETTING UP JHEP BASED ON MARGIINAL FINANCIAL AND ECONOMIC GAINS AND IMPUTED BENEFITS
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SAMIR SARDANA Nov 05, 2023 05:56pm
THE QUESTION WHICH PAKISTAN POLITICIANS & PEOPLE HAVE TO NOTE IS THAT MANGLA,TARBELA & CHASHMA WILL BECOME DEAD SOON ! DAMS ARE NOT MADE FOR POWER ! POWER CAN COME FROM AIR,SUN,WATER & HYDROCARBONS ! IT IS WATER FOR AGRI AND FOOD ! DOES PAKISTAN WANT A FOOD CIRCULAR DEBT WITH THE POWER & GAS CIRCULAR DEBT ? ALL THESE CIRCULAR DEBTS ARE PLANNED BY THE WEST AND CHAIWALA ! PAKISTAN COULD HAVE BEEN THE MOST SUCCESSSFUL ISLAMIC NATION, IN HISTORY (W/O HYDRO CARBONS)! THAT IS WHY THE WEST & CJHAIWALA ARE OUT TO DESTROY IT ! THE ANTI DAM LOBBY IS FUNDED,BY THE WEST AND CHAIWLA - AS IT IMPERILS THE FOOD SECURITY OF PAKISTAN,& CAN DESTROY PAKISTAN AGRICULTURE ! IN THE FUTURE STATES OF PAKISTAN WILL BE AT WAR WITH EACH OTHER IN DROUGHTS LACK OF WATER ! THE NDUS IS PLAGUED BY THE DIRT AND SILT OF THE KABUL RIVER ! THAT HAS RUINED THE RESERVOIRS OF ALL THE DAMS ON THE INDUS IN PAKISTAN ! WATER SECURITY REQUIRES RESERVOIRS & DAMS ! HEP IS WAY TO MAKE THE DAM TO PAY FOR THE CIVIL COST !
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SAMIR SARDANA Nov 05, 2023 06:56pm
PAKISTAN HAS THE REAL OIL ! WHICH IS WATER ! OPEC RUN WILL RUN OUT IN 50 YEARS ! WATER IS MANUFACTURED BY NATURE AT NIL COST ! THE TILT OF THE EARTH AND GORGES & VALLEYS WILL BRING IT TO PAKISTAN FREE OF COST ! NO OTHER NATION WILL HAVE THAT MUCH WATER PER CAPITA ! BETTER THAN EGYPT & UKRAINE AS PAKISTAN HAS MASSIVE UNDERGROUND RIVERS & WATER RESERVOIRS AT SHALLOW DEPTH ! THE PROBLEM IS THE MUCK THAT COMES WITH THE KABUL RIVER INTO THE INDUS AND THE DISASTER OF THE SILTATION THEREAFTER ! THUS COMES THE FEAR OF SILTATION IN RESERVOIRS OF KALABAGH, CAUSING BACKFLOW & UTTER DEVASTATION,ESPECIALLY AS THE DROP FROM SKARDU TO KALABAGH, IS VIA NARRROW GORGES - WHICH MAKE BACKFLOWS A DISASTER BESIDES CLEANING TIME OF THE RESERVOIRS .! SOLUTION IS KATZARAH IN SKARDU AT POINT OF ENTRY OF INDUS INTO PAKISTAN! THAT WILL NAIL THE SEDIMENTATION OF ALL THE DOWNSTREAM DAMS,& SILTATION OF KALABAGH, WITH THE AID OF PUTIN! PUTIN IS SENDING A MESSAGE ! NO OPTION TO DAMS !SAMIR SARDANA
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Prof. Dr. Muhammad Abdul Quddus Nov 06, 2023 10:55am
@SAMIR SARDANA, It is the best solution for Pakistan to construct the Kala Bagh Dam on priority. The Politicians especially from KP and Sindh must play a positive role in the best interest of Pakistan's well-being.
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Prof. Dr. Muhammad Abdul Quddus Nov 06, 2023 10:59am
@SAMIRThe only and the best solution for Electricity is the Kala Bagh Dam construction on priority. Pakistani politicians (especially from Sindh and KP) must play a positive role in constructing the Kala Bagh Dam. Eng. and former Chairman WAPDA also supported the construction of the Kala Bagh Dam. I am hoping for the best SARDANA,
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Prof. Dr. Muhammad Abdul Quddus Nov 06, 2023 11:00am
The only and the best solution for Electricity is the Kala Bagh Dam construction on priority. Pakistani politicians (especially from Sindh and KP) must play a positive role in constructing the Kala Bagh Dam. Eng. and former Chairman WAPDA also supported the construction of the Kala Bagh Dam. I am hoping for the best
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