KARACHI: A civil society group striving to promote renewable energy and climate justice has welcomed the recently-released power sector audit report and demanded establishment of a parliamentary commission to further examine its findings and look into the entire matter afresh with a broader social, economic, financial and environmental lens in the current scenario of COVID-19.
While terming the audit report ‘first step in right direction’, the civil society group called for continuation of the power sector audit process and making it democratic, broad-based, citizens-driven, climate-focused and policy-oriented. The group, namely Alliance for Climate Justice and Clean Energy (ACJCE), made these demands in an online press conference here on Thursday.
The current patterns of development and investment in power sector, which are generously skewed in favor of coal and other fossil fuels based power project, are bound to complicate the ever-increasing problems of high cost of electricity, circular debt, capacity charges, economic inefficiency, social disruptions and environmental destructions. Contribution of coal in national energy mix, which was just zero few years ago, has reached 32 percent this year.
Coal-mining and coal power plant in Thar had already been creating serious problems of displacement, livelihood losses and environmental degradation. In Tharparkar, 4,000 billion gallons of groundwater will be extracted for coal mining and 8,500 billion gallons for producing 10 gigawatt power in 30 years. With an already fragile hydrology, Thar will face serious water stress due over-extraction of groundwater for coal power projects.
Before the proposed parliamentary commission was established, all the ongoing projects based on coal and other fossil fuels, particularly in Thar coalfield Block-I, should be stopped with immediate effect, asked Muhammad Ali Shah, Syed Ghazanfar Abbas and Azhar Lashari—representatives of ACJCE—while addressing the online press conference from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad respectively.
The said the committee had overlooked the problem of current 30 percent overcapacity in power generation, which with the implementation of numerous ongoing and pipeline projects of coal-based power plants, will increase manifold in future and create the issue of stranded assets. They said the power needs of the country were bound to decrease due to slow economic growth as an aftermath of pandemic. They demanded the government to rationalize declining power needs, revisit all coal-based power projects, and prioritize transitioning to clean and green energy
They criticized the process adopted by a nine-member committee constituted by ministry of energy and power for conducting power sector audit. They said the audit process was limited in its scope and devoid of broad-based consultations in its method. Instead of identifying different actors and factors behind ever increasing electricity costs and circular debt, the committee’s work and report were rather aimed at finding a scapegoat, they said. Notwithstanding the fact that National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) was a key player in power sector, they said, the committee did not take its role into account, and ignored any violations of rules by NEPRA. Instead, the report lays all the blame on the door of Independent Power Producers (IPPs).