Coal Fired Power Generation - There Must Be A Full Stop

Coal Fired Power Generation - There Must Be A Full Stop
Coal Fired Power Generation – There must be a full sto

Pakistan has raised the share of coal-fired plants in the energy mix in last five years with installation of new plants of at least 4,620MW, addition of coal-based power plants has outdone all other plants in terms of capacity. According to NEPRA, the contribution of coal to the country’s energy mix was a staggering 21 per cent in CY20[1].

Running on imported fuel, there are Sahiwal Coal Power Project, Port Qasim Coal Power Project and China Power Hub Power plant, each with rated capacity of 1320 MW, making up a sum of 3.96 GW capacity and only one power plant of 660MW on local coal. Though coal is generally debated as local fuel and argued to be favored but in last five years only 14.3% of newly installed capacity would use indigenous coal, rest 85.7% plant utilize coal imported from Indonesia and South Africa.

This shows heavy dependence on imported coal. Importance of switching from imported fuel to local fuel can be realized from the fact that first year operation 660 MW of Tharcoal is said to save the government and consumers, about $130 million compared to LNG-based generation and $80 million compared to imported coal-based plants[2].

Even if Thar coal consumption comes into full swing and imported coal is ousted, things would not resolve at all. Unlike other fuels, coal is complete package of disasters, it does not only emit largest amount of CO2 emissions but also a quantity of Sulphur Oxide, Oxides of Nitrogen and great disastrous Mercury that can significantly pose damage to wildlife and coastal biosphere, it does not stop here. Thar coal also poses a great threat to ground water table of Tharparkar district due to open mining and many studies now predicted that locals may lose ground waters for centuries and point out that no such consideration was there at approval for go-ahead with open pit mining. Ground water issue may be posed in coming centuries.

A research organization, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) suggests that power plants planned in Thar will be larger cause of air pollution in South Asia[3].

Though this has huge environmental impact but left and keep leaving a very positive socio-economic impact on lives of local people. Many technical and non-technical jobs are created; investments are coming into region.

Countries throughout the world have recognized the environmental impact of coal plants and now even they are relatively not as cheaper as they used to be once. Japan is now going to shut 90% of total plants, about 100 coal fired power plants by 2030[4], similarly largest coal dependent South East Asian country, Vietnam plans to shift half of its coal projects by gas and renewables[5]. Not much different situation can be seen in Bangladesh – a former cousin of Pakistan that was aiming for largest coal based projects to be installed in the world of 29 power plants with cumulative capacity of 33.2GW – now seems to tilt towards LNG plants & renewables and may divert from 90% of its proposed coal fired projects[6][7].

Electricity and heat contribute to about 31% of total CO2 emission, a massive contribution of coal plants. A country like Pakistan can realize its impact on climate change since it is the fifth hardly hit country amidst this catastrophic change and ranked second after Afghanistan in losing lives due to air pollution. Though we have 6th largest reserves of lignite, never to forget this fuel is dirtiest and our coal’s quality is even inferior to that of Indonesia and other coal exporting country.

There are already many coal fired power projects in pipeline but can we afford them amid such horrific climate conditions?

External links:

[1] “Coal demand expected to spike in 2021 - Newspaper - DAWN.COM.”

[2] “BR-ePaper | Jul 12, 2020 | Page National News Page 2.”

[3] “Air quality, health and toxics impacts of the proposed coal mining and power cluster in Thar, Pakistan.”

[4] “Japan’s coal closure plan a historic milestone, but what’s next? | The Japan Times.”

[5] “Coal’s End Moves Closer as Vietnam Turns to Renewables - Bloomberg.”

[6] “Bangladesh may ditch 90% of its planned coal power - China Dialogue.”

[7] “Choked by Coal: The Carbon Catastrophe in Bangladesh.”