The government has eased the condition of adopting super-critical technology, which is environment-friendly and increases plant efficiency, for a Chinese company that is setting up a coal-fired power plant in Gwadar, Balochistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
This is no less than an about-turn over the policy proposed by the Ministry of Water and Power, which asked the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) not to set tariff for the coal-based power projects that had lower specifications than the super-critical technology.
For the coal-based power projects of 300-megawatt generation capacity being built in Gwadar, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), in a meeting held on March 30, eased the technology criteria.
The ECC took the decision following constitution of a committee on March 28 comprising the law minister, finance secretary and water and power secretary tasked with examining the issue historically including the status of the project and the award of contract without bidding.
Consequently, the law minister presented a report for consideration of the ECC. He said the committee held threadbare discussions on the environmental impact of the project in its meeting on March 29 in the light of environmental laws and the power generation policy of 2015.
The super-critical technology would not be used in the project as it was not economical for power generating units of less than 350MW capacity, he said.
However, he added, the chief secretary of Balochistan had assured them that all relevant provincial environmental laws would be applied during the execution of the project.
After comprehensive discussions, ECC members arrived at a consensus that the project was in line with the applicable environmental laws irrespective of the technology adopted.
The ECC underlined the dire need for keeping a close watch on the application of prevailing environmental laws and regulations to the proposed project in order to protect environment in the area.
It suggested that the Ministry of Climate Change and the Balochistan government should continue to monitor the implementation of environmental laws and regulations in order to ensure a hazard-free atmosphere.
Later, the ECC approved the award of the project to a Chinese company without bidding.
The 300MW coal-based power project was part of CPEC for which Pakistan and Chinese governments signed an agreement in November 2014.
The Chinese nominated China Communication Construction Company (CCCC), a large state-owned infrastructure group, for investment in the project, which was ratified by Pakistan.
However, Islamabad proposed that the nomination may also be forwarded by the National Energy Administration formally through the Chinese embassy in Pakistan, which was later approved in the fifth meeting of the Joint Cooperation Committee on CPEC.
In accordance with the plan, CCCC approached the Private Power and Infrastructure Board in September 2015 for the construction of two power plants of 150MW each based on consumption of imported coal.