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Coal based power generation can boost crawling economy

FWBLIslamabad: The Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) said on Tuesday government should push power companies using furnace oil to switch to coal driven low prices, stability and vast supplies for years to come.

Coal is the cheapest and the most common fuel used to produce electricity and heat in the world, its share in world’s energy mix has hit record high with 5.4 per cent increase, it said.

With 1004 billion tonnes of known coal reserves left on earth and global consumption estimated at 9.98 billion tonnes per annum by 2030, Pakistan can become a major player with 175 billion tonnes of coal, said Farida Rashid, President IWCCI.

Thar coal is sufficient to meet our fuel requirements for centuries and help export electricity to regional countries opening door for prosperity but it remained largely ignored, she said.

Speaking to business community, she said that we are paying a very heavy price for running power plants on furnace oil and natural gas while the slow pace of the government’s decision to convert some the furnace oil based power plants to coal is frustrating.

Conversion of furnace oil based power plants on Thar coal can save around 5 billion dollars of foreign exchange per annum as furnace oil imports stands at 40 per cent of total petroleum imports that are over 12 billion dollars.

Farida Rashid adding that switching on coal should be made easier for the private power producers seeking permission since long as conversion to imported coal will also save billions, she observed.

Conversion will cut oil import bill, reduce borrowings, clip subsidies and bring production cost down providing relief to domestic, commercial and industrial consumers, she added.

Farida Rashid said that conversion will also help cull circular debt which is biggest threat to the economy, bridge budgetary gap, make funds available for new investment on public welfare and power sector betterment and improve balance of payments position.

She said that some two billion dollars could also be saved by ensuring merit in provision of gas to the power plants, a decision implementable within an hour. This can be ensured by preferring most efficient power plants irrespective of the fact that they are state-owned or privately owned units.

Alternatively, government can take steps to improve productivity of inefficient public sector electricity generation companies which are preferred in provision of gas.

Business community believes that the resolution to power woes lies in conversion to relatively stable fuel because volatile global oil prices have resulted in huge circular debt and unmaintainable generation cost.

Government can consider asking IPPs to convert to coal, largest carbon-emitting energy source of all, otherwise the circular debt will soon cross Rs one trillion rupees mark, she warned.

Economy cannot be salvaged in presence of unstable power sector which is facing many problems none of which is impossible to solve.

Presently, coal is responsible for 41per cent of global electricity generation, with 1932 coal power plants, coal account for over 50 per cent of all US electric generation while India with 126 plants is expected to overtake America by 2025.

South Africa’s 93 per cent and China’s 68.7 per cent electricity comes from coal while Pakistan’s coal-based power production is insignificant. We should take steps to balance our energy mix and improve dismal per capita energy consumption to boost economy.

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