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Pakistan plans to quadruple domestic coal-fired power, move away from gas

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  • Energy minister says LNG is no longer part of long-term plan.
  • Country plans increasing domestic coal-fired power capacity to 10GW in medium-term. 
  • Pakistan’s annual LNG imports fell to lowest levels in five years.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan plans to quadruple its domestic coal-fired capacity to reduce power generation costs and will not build new gas-fired plants in the coming years, its energy minister told Reuters on Monday, as it seeks to ease a crippling foreign-exchange crisis.

A shortage of natural gas, which accounts for over a third of the country’s power output, plunged large areas into hours of darkness last year. A surge in global prices of liquefied natural gas (LNG) after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and an onerous economic crisis had made LNG unaffordable for Pakistan.

“LNG is no longer part of the long-term plan,” Pakistan Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan told Reuters, adding that the country plans to increase domestic coal-fired power capacity to 10 gigawatts (GW) in the medium-term, from 2.31 GW currently.

Pakistan’s plan to switch to coal to provide its citizens reliable electricity underscores challenges in drafting effective decarbonisation strategies, at a time when some developing countries are struggling to keep lights on.

Despite power demand increasing in 2022, Pakistan’s annual LNG imports fell to the lowest levels in five years as European buyers elbowed out price-sensitive consumers.

“We have some of the world’s most efficient regasified LNG-based power plants. But we don’t have the gas to run them,” Dastgir said in an interview.

The South Asian nation, which is battling a wrenching economic crisis and is in dire need of funds, is seeking to reduce the value of its fuel imports and protect itself from geopolitical shocks, he said.

Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves held by the central bank have fallen to $2.9 billion, barely enough to cover three weeks of imports.

“It’s this question of not just being able to generate energy cheaply, but also with domestic sources, that is very important,” Dastgir said.

The Shanghai Electric Thar plant, a 1.32 GW capacity plant that runs on domestic coal and is funded under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), started producing power last week. The CPEC is a part of Beijing’s global Belt and Road Initiative.

In addition to the coal-fired plants, Pakistan also plans to boost its solar, hydro and nuclear power fleet, Dastgir said, without elaborating.

If the proposed plants are constructed, it could also widen the gap between Pakistan’s power demand and installed power generation capacity, potentially forcing the country to idle plants.

The maximum power demand met by Pakistan during the year ended June 2022 was 28.25 GW, more than 35% lower than power generation capacity of 43.77 GW.

It was not immediately clear how Pakistan will finance the proposed coal fleet, but Dastgir said setting up new plants will depend on “investor interest,” which he expects to increase when newly commissioned coal-fired plants are proved viable.

Financial institutions in China and Japan, which are among the biggest financiers of coal units in developing countries, have been backing out of funding fossil-fuel projects in recent years amid pressure from activists and Western governments.

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Donald Lu visits Finance Minister Aurangzeb at the World Bank headquarters.

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Wednesday saw Minister for Finance and Revenue Muhammad Aurangzeb meet US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Horst.

The finance minister briefed US officials on Pakistan’s reform plan at the World Bank. Meeting both delegations decided to improve bilateral ties.

Meeting topics included alternative energy, agriculture, climate, and tech industry. Boosting the Pakistan-US economic partnership was another finance ministry priority.

With US officials, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb addressed IT, agriculture, and other business potential.

Pakistan would collaborate with the US International Development Finance Corporation and Exim Bank, according to Muhammad Aurangzeb.

His name is Donald Lu.
Over 30 years of US government service for Lu as a foreign service officer.

What Pakistan calls the “cipher” dispute involves the American official. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder claimed that a supposed official letter between Washington and Islamabad proved his ousting as PM was a US conspiracy.

Washington has strongly refuted Khan’s allegations.

The State Department’s top South and Central Asia diplomat is Donald Lu, assistant secretary of state.

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Huge investment potential exists in the telecom and IT sectors. Shaza Fatima

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According to Shaza Fatima Khawaja, Minister of State for IT and Telecommunication, there are numerous investment prospects in Pakistan’s IT and telecom sectors.

She noted that the current administration is dedicated to fostering foreign investment in the nation, in line with the Prime Minister’s goal.

According to a news release, CEOs Wateen Adil Rashid and Muhammad Shahbaz Khan of Taavun (Pvt) Limited, who paid her a visit on Tuesday, spoke with Minister of State for IT and Telecommunication Shaza Fatima Khawaja.

She declared that the private sector would receive complete support because it is essential to growing our exports.

Regarding youngsters, she stated that they are our greatest asset and that efforts are being made to further their growth.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates was thanked by Shaza Fatima for his particular interest in promoting additional investment in Pakistan’s telecom industry.

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WB pledges complete support for changes aimed at stabilizing Pakistan’s economy.

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Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Muhammad Aurangzeb, met with President of the World Bank Group, Ajay Banga, according to a press release from the ministry of finance here. During the meeting, the minister discussed Pakistan’s progress under the nine-month Standby Arrangement (SBA) program as well as ongoing reforms in priority areas of taxation, energy, and privatization.

According to the statement, the minister also extended an invitation to the president to visit Pakistan, and both parties acknowledged the necessity of a rolling 10-year country framework plan.

The minister also talked on safeguarding Pakistan’s eligibility for concessional funding and future project pipeline during a meeting with Masatsugu Asakawa, President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The chief executive officer of the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), Scott Nathan, also met with the minister of finance.

They discussed during the conference how DFC may increase its investments in Pakistan after resolving unresolved conflicts in a cooperative manner.

According to the minister, the government is supporting creative financing strategies to maximize PPP potential and private sector participation.

According to the statement, he gave his word that the government will do everything in its power to assist investment projects by both foreign and local businesses in Pakistan.

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