Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Pakistan looks to India for green energy know-how

NEW DELHI: While bilateral relations between Pakistan and India may not be very cordial at the moment, businessmen across the border have found a new area for collaboration - alternate energy.

About 30 Pakistani companies sent representatives to Delhi during the Renewable Energy Expo 2008 that ended on Saturday to scout for new technology and expertise to skirt over chronic energy shortage in that country.

"We had 38 businessmen from Pakistan with various business interests," said Waqar Ahmed, managing director of Business Horizons, the trade promotion group that brought the Pakistani delegation to India.

Ahmed said Pakistani business houses were either looking at setting up of power plants to feed into the national grid, or set up captive plants for their own units.

Making the visit were some of Pakistan's top companies that included Sapphire group, which runs 13 textile weaving and spinning mills, travel company Sitara that also has subsidiaries in Canada and Uzbekistan, the Crescent Group with multiple business interests such as oil exploration, financial services and textiles, and Pakistan's second largest textiles group Gulistan.

Interestingly, the day the Delhi expo was inaugurated, leading Pakistani financial paper Business Recorder had published a two-page supplement on event.

Reports in the Pakistani media say the electricity shortfall was as high as 7,000 MW this summer after 24 power generating units stopped operations due a severe shortage of furnace oil.

Pakistan has a target to generate at least 9,700 MW through renewable energy by 2030, or about five percent of its installed capacity.

"The government has already issued 93 letters of intent to private companies for setting up wind power projects," said Ahmed.

The 93 projects will have a generation capacity of about 4,600 MW.

Sitara Chemicals Industries, which operates the largest chemicals complex in Pakistan, has ambitious plans that hinge on the ability to secure a reliable source of energy.

"We are already running a 80 MW plant, which supplies electricity to the complex and the state power board. We need to generate 50 MW at least, which may go up to 200 MW," Sitara Chemicals chief executive Muhammad Adrees told IANS.

The head of the Rs 140 crore company is keen to import Indian technology, as he felt "there was an affinity to the ground conditions in Pakistan".

Preliminary talks have been held with several companies, including Tata BP Solar. "We have not yet decided to set up a renewable energy power plant, but still exploring our options," said Adrees.

The Sitara group already has an Indian connection, having sourced two chemical plants from here. "Right now, we have 20 Indians working in our complex in connection with setting up these two plants," said Adrees.

It is still logistically a challenge to import equipment from India. "When we had to get our machinery from Delhi, it had to be routed through Mumbai to reach Karachi port. If we could have transported directly by road from Delhi, it would have saves costs," he said.

India has been ranked third on the Ernst and Young Renewable Energy attractiveness model. The country has an installed capacity of 12,600 MW, out of which about 8,700 MW is generated through wind power.

By 2011, it hopes to increase the total generation from renewable energy to 14,000 MW. As per government targets, renewable energy will account for 10 per cent of total power generation by 2012 and 20 per cent by 2020.

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