Power-starved Pakistan has indicated its willingness to hook up a portion of Lahore with the Indian side,enabling the capital of the Punjab province to draw electricity from the Indian grid.
Pakistans government made the proposal to an expert group representing the Indian government that visited the country earlier this week. The group returned to Delhi on Wednesday.
The proposal to island a part of Lahore from the Pakistani grid and hook up a direct connection with the integrated NEW (north-east-west-north eastern) grid in India is aimed at faciliating the transfer of 250-300 MW of power from the Indian side as a short-term fix for Pakistans debilitating power crisis.
Once inter-governmental formalities are completed,building a limited capacity transmission line between the two countries could be pushed through in about 12 months. There already exists a complete network of transmission lines and grids on the Pakistani side along the border with Punjab,and the nearest grid on the Indian side at Patti in Tarn Taran district is very close to the Lahore Ring,making grid interconnection feasible.
In the longer term,the plan is to have an asynchronous buffer HVDC (high voltage direct current) back-to-back link that can be used to wheel about 500 MW from India to Pakistan,something that could take up to three years to build.
The buffer HVDC link would ensure that grid disturbances on either side are not passed across the border,and would obviate the necessity for islanding a portion of Pakistani territory from its national grid.
While the broad contours of the HVDC link proposal has been discussed by the two sides earlier,with the new government in place in Islamabad,there is a fresh sense of purpose. After its meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore,the Indian delegation was rushed to Islamabad for an unscheduled meeting with the federal minister for water and power Khawaja Muhammad Asif on the instructions of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Loadshedding was one of the biggest issues in last months election,and immediately after taking charge,Sharif had asserted that his government was working on a plan to overcome the crisis. Pakistan currently has a load of 18,000 MW,but faces shortages to the tune of 5,000-6,000 MW.
The broad contours of the long-term proposal under discussion include a three-step process aimed at a purely commercial arrangement between the two countries. After the two governments have inked an overarching MoU, designated transmission agencies will sign an agreement for coordinated planning and implementation on each of their sides,and physically joining the grids. Finally,utilities on each side will be appointed the nodal agency for buying power,arranging transmission corridors and settling payments.
What has been abundantly clarified is that the role of the two governments would be restricted to signing the pact,and they would not be involved in pricing and settlement of power sales. The designated Pakistani nodal agency would have to shop from the Indian electricity market from a private power developer,a surplus state or on power exchanges.