Hydropower has the lowest life-cycle cost of any power generation technology. Hydropower is a potential life-saver for Pakistan. Yet its development has been hampered for decades. Hence, only 15 percent of Pakistan’s over 60,000MW hydropower potential has been developed in 70 years.
Hydropower plants power generation can give a country economy a new path of progress. Despite initial costs and long gestation periods, hydropower plants have almost no fuel cost and have operational lives of over a century.
New hydropower plants generate electricity at Rs6-10 per unit compared to thermal power plants’ Rs15-25 per unit. All other power-generating technologies have up to 30 years of project life and need up to four times expensive plant replacements in foreign exchange.
Wind and solar technologies are solely dependent on the weather. They can at best supplement but not replace hydropower which, amongst others, can provide a range of valuable services, including frequency control, grid balancing, water storage, quick start, and peaking services not inherent in wind and solar generation.
Hydropower projects that have approved sites, available finances, approved tariffs, and strong sponsors are being pushed back, thus effectively killing them in favor of renewables that still have no sponsors, sites, financing, planning, or grid evacuation studies.
It has to be kept in mind that many hydropower resources are located in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Unfortunately, international financiers have stopped lending for projects in Azad Jammu and Kashmir owing to its disputed territorial status and pressure from India.
The 350MW Athmuqam project on the Neelum River (Azad Jammu and Kashmir) and 4,500MW Diamer-Bhasha on the Indus (Gilgit-Baltistan) are its examples.
In short, being a developing country, we have to move towards hydropower.