Thar coal vital for survival, say experts

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Pakistan’s energy sector is facing a major challenge as coordination between capacity generation and distribution is lacking. This lack of coordination has resulted in a mismatch between demand and supply, leaving the country grappling with persistent power shortages in some areas and now countrywide blackouts once or twice a year.

This has become a major issue for businesses and households alike, with many relying on their own generators to meet energy needs.

The government and relevant stakeholders are working to find a solution to this problem, but progress has been slow. As the demand for energy continues to rise, the need to address the coordination gap in the energy sector becomes increasingly pressing.

Energy sector experts emphasised the significance of utilising indigenous Thar coal in addressing Pakistan’s energy needs during a webinar held on Monday. They pointed out that the global increase in the price of oil and gas makes it even more crucial for Pakistan to explore its own ample coal reserves. This will help reduce the country’s reliance on costly imported energy and instead, steer it towards a cheaper, abundant alternative.

Hosted by journalist and TV show host, Zarrar Khuhro and organised by Prime News, the webinar titled “Thar Projects: The Solution to Pakistan’s Energy Needs” included former Chief Economist of the Planning Commission and newspaper columnist Dr Pervez Tahir, former Member Energy of the Planning Commission, Shahid Sattar and researcher and commentator, Ali Khizar.

“The energy crisis in Pakistan remains a pressing issue, with energy efficiency not being prioritised,” Tahir stated, adding that even the private sector contributes to the problem through the use of outdated boilers and equipment.

He discussed the energy situation in Pakistan, pointing out that a majority of the energy mix is thermal, primarily relying on fossil fuels. He acknowledged the difficulties in discussing coal due to climate concerns, but emphasised that Pakistan’s energy crisis is so dire that we cannot survive without it.

Tahir highlighted his visit to Thar and observed the significant transformation and development in the region, stating that utilising the coal reserves will be beneficial for the country, province and local population. He expressed disappointment, however, that the energy efficiency policy he created in 1989 through the National Energy Conservation Centre (ENERCON) was never implemented. He emphasised the need for consistent implementation of well-planned initiatives for success.

Sattar highlighted the current pricing system of energy in Pakistan as a major factor hindering its efficient utilisation. He emphasised the global trend of moving towards a distributed generation system, instead of relying on traditional grid systems, as the way forward for Pakistan.

He delved into the issue of circular debt, explaining that it is not reflected in the tariffs issued by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), leading to a significant difference between the consumption and the price of energy goods. He emphasised the need for addressing this issue to ensure a more efficient and sustainable energy system in the country.