Almost 1GW of wind power is being curtailed in Pakistan as government officials prioritise energy from coal- and gas-fired power plants — despite their pollution and reliance on imported fuels — according to the country’s newspaper of record, Dawn.
Project developers are therefore receiving no income for energy generated, raising questions over whether investors will continue ploughing money into the developing nation’s growing wind industry.
The 980MW installed in the so-called Jhimpir Wind Corridor, near Karachi, were fully curtailed for six consecutive days last week amid a downturn in energy demand, while less than 10MW were outputted to the grid on “certain days over the last few months”, the newspaper reports.
Power ministry officials are said to have told investors that the thermal plants are being prioritised “because they are closer to load centres in Punjab and a safer option for system stability”.
All wind projects that sell their power to the Central Power Purchasing Agency have been curtailed to zero, according to the chairman of the Pakistan Wind Energy Association, Danish Iqbal.
Wind farm operators receive zero income when they cannot sell power to the grid, with one investor telling Dawn that his company will not be able to meet upcoming debt repayments.
“Our financial situation is now very, very precarious,” he said. “The majority of the projects in the corridor involve foreign investors with foreign lending as well. Our counterparts abroad are also worried now about the financial viability of their investments. Almost 70% of our annual power generation takes place in the summer months, if this sort of a situation was to arise in those months it would spell our doom.
Iqbal added: “Prime Minister [Imran Khan] has put up his vision to bring 30% of power generation through renewable [energy] by 2030 but if you have these expensive baseload plants on must-run basis on imported [natural gas] and coal, they will never allow renewables to gain space in the grid.”
Last month, Khan oversaw the signing of 560MW of wind farm deals, saying that the six wind farms would help the country’s long-term energy planning and reduce its reliance on imports.
Pakistan has for years been prone to crippling blackouts, caused by a range of factors from poor infrastructure to market disfunctions.
The country had just under 1.2GW of wind in place by the end of 2018, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.