By Babar Aly
The acute energy crisis in Pakistan started back in 2006-07 with a gradual widening in the demand-and-supply gap. Since then this gap has grown and has assumed proportions which are considered to be the worst of all such power crises that Pakistan has faced since its inception. The electric power deficit had crossed the level of 5,000 MW at many points during the year 2011. At one stage in the month of May 2011, this shortfall had surpassed 7,000 MW. In the last ten years there is no substantial increase in the generation capacity in comparison to the steep rise in electricity demand. To a great extent, failure on the part of previous government to timely react to the situation led the country to a severe power crisis.
However, for the last three years, some serious efforts are being made by the federal government to overcome this shortfall. CASA project is one of these steps.
Central Asia and South Asia (CASA-1000) is a project designed to transmit 1,300 MW of surplus electricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyz Republic through Afghanistan (300 MW) to Pakistan (1000 MW). The MoU among the four governments was signed on November 16, 2007 in Kabul. The estimated cost of the CASA-1000 project is $1,170 million. The initial plan is to transmit power in the range of 1,000 MW to 1,300 MW from the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The major share of the exported energy will be consumed by Pakistan while approximately 300 MW will be used by Afghanistan.
Major components of CASA-1000 are:
- 500 KV AC line from Datka (in the Kyrgyz Republic) to Khudjand (477 kilometres away, in Tajikistan)
- 1300 megawatt AC-DC convertor station in Sangtuda (Tajikistan)
- 750 kilometre high voltage DC line from Sangtuda to Kabul (Afghanistan) to Peshawar (Pakistan)
- 300 megawatt convertor station in Kabul (with import and export capability)
- 1300 megawatt DC-AC convertor station in Peshawar
It has been agreed that Pakistan will obtain electricity at $9.35 per kilowatt through the CASA-1,000 during the initial 15 years, whereas this price includes a transit fee of $1.25 per kilowatt owed by Pakistan to Afghanistan.
According to seasoned Swiss analyst and writer Franz J Marty, CASA-1,000 is technically feasible and economically worthwhile. Even in dry years a sufficient surplus of Kyrgyz and Tajik electricity is almost certainly guaranteed during summer. And the comparatively low production costs of electricity in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan coupled with the already-high and increasing Pakistani demand are a powerful economic incentive. The project is the first of its kind that will link Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan through electricity grid. The project which will be completed by 2018 will go a long way in regional integration. The CASA-1000 project is an important step in building a functioning, efficient electricity system across Central Asia and South Asia.
By facilitating clean power export revenues for the Central Asian countries and by alleviating electricity shortages in the South Asian countries, this project will enhance growth prospects across both regions. The regional energy projects would facilitate regional connectivity and contribute to peace, stability and security by creating interdependence in the region. The project will bring warmth and cordiality, and generate economic activity, create job opportunities and improve the living standards.
The writer is an M. Phil scholar