ISLAMABAD - Heavy machinery worth millions of rupees, donated by the US for the production of micro-hydro power plants, has been lying defunct for years due to non-allocation of funds by the government for its commissioning that could have lit up thousands of households and businesses.
The machinery, having a total value of Rs.71.42 million, was donated to Pakistan Council of Renewable Energy Technologies (Pcret) that works for the research and development of alternate energies, including water, solar, wind and biogas energy, by USAID in 1989 under the “Energy and Equipment programme”.
The machinery — Centre lathe (1500 mm), Centre lathe (2500 mm), Surface Grinder, Three Roll Plate Bending Machine, Gantry Crane, Hydraulic Press, Sheet Shearing Machine, Universal Milling Machine — that cost $714,172 at that time was donated to establish a research and development facility for making various types of turbines and other related equipment for local use of electricity production from water and also for export to the neighbouring countries like Afghanistan.
The received machinery was never installed and the technical staff hired on contract basis was laid off on completion of the development project, say documents obtained by The Nation. The documents say that the equipment could not be installed/commissioned at that time at the regional office of Pcret in Peshawar due to various reasons, including the non-availability of funds for the installation and the support equipment as well as the required manpower.
Since manufacturers/ fabricators of turbines in the country are not fully equipped and have no required technical know-how as compared to the foreign manufactures, officials say, it was decided to establish well-equipped workshop/research and development facility in the council in its Peshawar office to make improvement in turbines/equipments, to achieve the maximum efficiency and to minimise the cost of machinery.
The Council so far has installed about 540 micro-hydel plants in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and Northern Areas that electrifies 76000 houses in the area.
If installed and commissioned at that time, the machinery had the capacity to produce 10 to 25 micro-hydro power plants from 10kw to 100kw annually that could have provided electricity to roughly a thousand houses and factories in KPK and Northern Areas, informed Pcret DG Dr. Sohail Zaki Farooqi. And, if upgraded by the time the facility could have electrified 10,000 places, he added.
According to information, now a proposal is under consideration to install this machinery at the regional office Peshawar of Pcret, in order to convert it to a Centre of Excellence in Micro-Hydro Power. But for this a number of other support equipment and additional staff will be required to fill the operational gaps.
As there has been no support from the government, even in the new budget the government has allocated not a million rupees for the development projects, the Council is considering to make functional the research and development facility with the collaboration of private sector, remarked Dr. Farooqi.
“Had the Council had sufficient funding and support from the government, it could have easily produced cheap electricity from natural resources to share the load on traditional electricity grids to a great extent,” he maintained.