In 2014-2015, Pakistan was facing the worst energy crises of its history. Electricity load shedding was a common phenomenon. It was impacting Pakistan on two fronts. First, continuous load shedding started to physiological problems due to restless nights. Labor force was the worst victim. Second, Pakistan was losing US$ 4-5 billion due to electricity load shedding. The cost did not include the health cost. Industry was, either shouting down or moving out of country. It led to massive un-employment. People, especially young people were desperately looking for jobs. Export started to decline, and trade deficit started to rise. Economic opportunities were shrinking, and financial health was deteriorating.
Besides, Pakistan was bearing the consequences of war on terror. Pakistan joined the war to help the world to secure peace. It resulted in heavy losses for Pakistan on all fronts. Pakistan almost lost 60000 precious lives and US$ 100 billion in economic, till 2015.
Pakistan was running pole to pole to find any investment for energy sector. Unfortunately, no one was ready to invest in Pakistan. The so-called allies of war on terror turned blind eye toward Pakistan’s needs. Rather, they started to introduce sanctions and FATF was one of the such tools. They also run malicious campaign in media to portray Pakistan as one of the most dangerous country of world. It created bad image of Pakistan and discouraged investors to invest in Pakistan. They were putting all sort of pressure to kneel down Pakistan.
In this desperate situation, China came forward to assist Pakistan. China being time tested friend and iron brother refused to listen any propaganda and started to work with Pakistan. China signed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to help Pakistan at multidimensional levels. Energy was selected as the top priority and low hanging area for cooperation. Chinese companies in cooperation with Pakistani institutions launched a series of energy projects. It is satisfactory to note that Sahiwal Coal Power, Port Qasim, HUBCO, Engro Thar Coal Power & Mine, Hydro China Dawood Wind Farm, Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park, UEP Wind Farm, Sachal Wind Farm, Three Gorges Second and third Wind Power Project have been completed. A good number of projects like Karot Hydropower, Suki Kinari Hydropower etc. are going on good pace. Besides, China and Pakistan are also erecting HVDC + 660 kV Matiari-Lahore HVDC Transmission Line, which is direly needed.
These energy projects helped Pakistan at many fronts. First, three projects namely Sahiwal Coal Power, Port Qasim and HUBCO, helped to create massive jobs and skilled labour in Pakistan. Data shows that the 8436 jobs were created during the construction of Sahiwal plant. The proportion of Pakistani and Chinese employees was 63:37 percent, respectively. Now, during the operation it is employing 1,683 and the proportion of jobs is 61:39 percent. China also trained 245 engineers and 377 office or lower staff. It was a huge contribution. Port Qasim project also helped to create 4000 jobs during the construction phase. The proportion of Pakistani and Chinese employees was 75:25 percent respectively. China again helped to produce a pool of trained engineers, office and lower staff. China trained 600 engineers and 2000 office and lower staff. During the operation it has employed 1270 employees with the proportion of 76:24 from Pakistan and China, respectively.
The story of HUBCO power plant is not different. The proportion of employees during the construction phase was 56.7:43.3 percent, Pakistani and Chinese workers, respectively. Now it is employing with the proportion of 71.1:28.9 percent, Pakistani and foreign workers, respectively. The interesting point to note here that there are 39 employees from Philippine. During the construction phase it also employed one British national.
These projects helped Pakistan to manage the crises of electricity. Pakistan was able to supply electricity to industry and households. In recent years, we have observed an increase in export. It also helped to create job opportunities in multiple sectors. These projected also contributed immensely to create a pool of skilled labor force. The trained labor force is now an asset for Pakistan. It is perceived that it will also assist the country during the second phase of CPEC, as industrialization is one of the key areas of cooperation in second phase.
Despite, all these benefits, coal power plants are still under fire and fierce criticism from West and Western influenced organizations. They are trying to make it the sole reason of climate change. They completely ignore the development needs of Pakistan and keep insisting on coal power plants. They have convinced themselves that meager investment of Pakistan in coal power is disturbing the climate of whole world.
However, the facts tell us different story. First, of all the developed countries are themselves leading the investment and power generation form coal. They have accumulated all benefits of development and now become preachers of renewable energy without realizing the development needs of poor and developing countries. USA, the most developed country and lead propagandist against CPEC is still producing 23.5 percent electricity from the coal. Germany, another proponent of renewable energy is producing 35.5 percent electricity form coal. Although, Germany is planning to phase out the coal, but in a phase manner and with the investment of 40 billion Euro. Besides, European Union is also trying to phase out coal but, in a phase-wise manner.
Although, the developed countries have the required financial and technological. resources to replace the coal with renewable at once, but they have adopted stepwise methodology. However, they are demanding from Pakistan to discard all coal power plants at once. They know that Pakistan does not required financial and technological resources, but they keep on insisting. It is quite strange and unjust.
Moreover, the leading developing countries are also following the footprints of developed countries and are big consumers of coal. For example, India is producing 77 percent electricity from coal and now PM Modi has announced to open new coal mines. According to 2017 data South Korea produces 44 percent electricity from coal, South Africa 88 percent, and Indonesia 58 percent (2017). The Russia, Japan and Turkey also fall among top ten on coal-based electricity.
Second, the share of coal power is very meager in the case of Pakistan. According to available it is around 10 percent, which decrease in coming years. As Pakistan is heavily investing on renewables energy sector and China is generously assisting Pakistan. The projects of Hydro China Dawood Wind Farm, Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park, UEP Wind Farm, Sachal Wind Farm, Three Gorges Second and third Wind Power Project have been completed under CPEC. In hydropower sector Karot r, Suki Kinari are in completion stages. China has also started construction of Dasu Dam. Azad Pattan hydropower has also been finalized.
Third, Pakistan will also be retiring many fossil fuel-based power projects till 2047. It has been planned that power projects of 11511 will be retired till 2047. It will further change the balance. Fourth, these China used the super critical technology in these plants. The technology help to lower the emission of green house gases (GHGs).
From the above discussion it can be inferred that the propaganda against these projects is politically motivated. The purpose is clear, the opponents wants to undermine the Chinese investment and interests of Pakistan. Coal power plants are only being used as smoke screen. Although, the opponents know that the investment is vital for Pakistan but they still trying to put a halt on it.
In the conclusion, President Xi Jinping has announced that China will not invest on coal projects. So, in future all investment from Chia in energy sector in Pakistan will be in renewables. It will further lower the proportion of coal in electricity production. Thus, the debate on the coal power should be put into rest.