BECAUSE of acute power-shortage and the government’s inability to execute big hydropower plans, the focus is shifting to realise the huge potential of small, mini and micro hydropower generation in the Frontier province. NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti has said that entire profit of net hydro-electricity would be spent on small hydropower generation schemes.
The NWFP government announced the power policy in 2001, under which various incentives for investors in mini/micro hydropower plants were spelt out such as selection of projects on first-come-first-served basis, simple procedures consisting of only registration and bank guarantees, fixed nominal lease money of Rs500/KW/annum, issuance of NOC within one month of registration and a three-year construction time limit for projects.
An independent “Energy and Power Department” has also been created to exploit the power potential in the province, including hydropower. However, private sector didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity for several reasons including law and order situation in the province and FATA.
Around 2,000 MHPPs have so far been installed throughout the province, FATA and the Northern Areas jointly by the Sarhad Hydro-Development Organisation (Shydo), Northern Areas Public Works Department and various NGOs and the private sector.
A European Union-funded project also established similar plants in upper Dir. The Pakistan Council for Renewable Technologies (PCRET) has installed nearly 300 MHPPs with a capacity of 3.5MW. Another project to build MHPPs on canal sites is under development. Most of these plants are operational in off-grid areas.
The mini/micro hydro power plants are cheaper in installation and maintenance. Distribution losses are least due to decentralised and local management. Its electricity can be utilised in domestic and small or medium-size industries. Being decentralised entities, MHPPs permit community participation in their initiation, operation and maintenance.
According to Wapda estimates, NWFP has 70,000 megawatt hydropower generation potential. The vast canal network and hilly terrain in NWFP provide thousands of sites for micro, mini and small hydropower plants. Depending upon the head and flow of water, suitable turbines can be utilised to generate electricity from a few KW to MW of electricity from these sites.
“Mini/micro HPPs can be installed at natural or manageable waterfalls which are in thousands in NWFP and FATA. A 50KW micro-power station can produce energy enough for around hundreds of households. People in upper Dir, Chitral, Swat and Shangla and Mansehra have installed hundreds of such plants for their energy needs,” said Najmul Hasan from Swat.
To encourage private investment in the sector, the government should simplify the process of establishing micro-power stations. Locally manufactured cheaper power turbines can make investment affordable. Local manufacturers of turbines need encouragement and technical support from the government and private sector.
Amir Zeb, who runs two MHPPs in Damorai and Shangla, said he was operating two plants for years now –one with a German-made turbine and the other manufactured locally. “Both have a capacity of 50KW each. The only difference between these two turbines is that the locally made turbine is cheaper by around 70 to 80 per cent. The latter had been installed in 1998 at a cost of Rs1.5 million while the former had cost around Rs15 million in early 1970s,” he said.
Gulazaruddin, a Mardan-based manufacturer of MHPPs, said: “The local 50KW micro-power station has a total installation cost of around Rs0.8 million. The price of Indonesian and Chinese turbines is Rs1.2-2.5 million respectively while the German-made turbine costs Rs5-7 million,” he said.
Mohammad Hussain, another manufacturer of MHPPs from Mardan, said they had so far manufactured and installed around 1,500 micro-power stations in various parts of the country contributing around 10MW. “We make MHHPs up to 300KW but can produce even of higher capacity if the government provides technical support,” he added.
The Pakistan Council for Renewable Technologies and other bodies are mostly using turbines which are made in local workshops without design or quality control facilities. Capacity building and public certification of these local turbines would improve their standing and buyers’ confidence creating international demand.
Javed Khatak, chief of Smeda (NWFP), said the government would promote local manufacture of turbines. “In the investment conference to be organisd soon by the provincial government, local technology including quality of these turbines would be highlighted. The government also plans to ensure their capacity enhancement in future,” he said.