Massive energy projects, executed by Chinese firms in Pakistan, not only ended power outages in the country but also introduced the most advanced technologies in the power sector.
These include the underground hydropower projects as well as the ultra-critical coal-fired power plants.
In 2018, China Gezhouba Group Corp (CGGC) completed the construction of first-ever underground powerhouse in Pakistan, ie Neelum-Jhelum hydropower plant in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The 969-megawatt run-of-river project was a construction challenge due to caverns and tunnels in the not-so-solid and ever-active Himalayan mountain range.
The project was completed after 10 years of unprecedented engineering efforts in the toughest geological and geotechnical environment, according to a joint study of Hanyang University, Korea and five Pakistani universities.
CGGC is also building the 884MW Suki Kinari hydropower project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), involving the same engineering design.
CGGC has also signed a contract with the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa for the construction of 300MW Balakot hydropower project with the same design.
“The project will provide us with a chance to work on tunnel excavation and installation of underground power plants,” a senior official of Pakhtunkhwa Energy Development Organisation said. “Earlier, such projects were constructed at the federal government level to which we had no exposure.”
In addition, China Three Gorges Corp (CTGC) has built a similar hydropower facility in Karot area of Punjab. The 720MW project is nearing completion and expected to commence commercial operations in mid-2022.
Three similar projects in the northern region of the country are at different stages of implementation.
Moreover, in the coal energy sector, Shanghai Electric Group is building a 1,320MW ultra-supercritical power plant in Tharparkar area.
This technology has never been used before in Pakistan, an official of the Thar Coal Block-1 Power Generation Company said. The company is a special purpose vehicle registered in Pakistan for execution of the project.
The ultra-critical technology, which has been developed by Shanghai Electric, has higher thermal efficiency level, resulting in lesser emissions per unit of the electricity generated, the official explained.
“The project will utilise the indigenous Thar coal and produce low-cost energy with lesser or no environmental hazards,” he said.