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Pakistan plans to quadruple domestic coal-fired power, move away from gas

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  • Energy minister says LNG is no longer part of long-term plan.
  • Country plans increasing domestic coal-fired power capacity to 10GW in medium-term. 
  • Pakistan’s annual LNG imports fell to lowest levels in five years.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan plans to quadruple its domestic coal-fired capacity to reduce power generation costs and will not build new gas-fired plants in the coming years, its energy minister told Reuters on Monday, as it seeks to ease a crippling foreign-exchange crisis.

A shortage of natural gas, which accounts for over a third of the country’s power output, plunged large areas into hours of darkness last year. A surge in global prices of liquefied natural gas (LNG) after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and an onerous economic crisis had made LNG unaffordable for Pakistan.

“LNG is no longer part of the long-term plan,” Pakistan Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan told Reuters, adding that the country plans to increase domestic coal-fired power capacity to 10 gigawatts (GW) in the medium-term, from 2.31 GW currently.

Pakistan’s plan to switch to coal to provide its citizens reliable electricity underscores challenges in drafting effective decarbonisation strategies, at a time when some developing countries are struggling to keep lights on.

Despite power demand increasing in 2022, Pakistan’s annual LNG imports fell to the lowest levels in five years as European buyers elbowed out price-sensitive consumers.

“We have some of the world’s most efficient regasified LNG-based power plants. But we don’t have the gas to run them,” Dastgir said in an interview.

The South Asian nation, which is battling a wrenching economic crisis and is in dire need of funds, is seeking to reduce the value of its fuel imports and protect itself from geopolitical shocks, he said.

Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves held by the central bank have fallen to $2.9 billion, barely enough to cover three weeks of imports.

“It’s this question of not just being able to generate energy cheaply, but also with domestic sources, that is very important,” Dastgir said.

The Shanghai Electric Thar plant, a 1.32 GW capacity plant that runs on domestic coal and is funded under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), started producing power last week. The CPEC is a part of Beijing’s global Belt and Road Initiative.

In addition to the coal-fired plants, Pakistan also plans to boost its solar, hydro and nuclear power fleet, Dastgir said, without elaborating.

If the proposed plants are constructed, it could also widen the gap between Pakistan’s power demand and installed power generation capacity, potentially forcing the country to idle plants.

The maximum power demand met by Pakistan during the year ended June 2022 was 28.25 GW, more than 35% lower than power generation capacity of 43.77 GW.

It was not immediately clear how Pakistan will finance the proposed coal fleet, but Dastgir said setting up new plants will depend on “investor interest,” which he expects to increase when newly commissioned coal-fired plants are proved viable.

Financial institutions in China and Japan, which are among the biggest financiers of coal units in developing countries, have been backing out of funding fossil-fuel projects in recent years amid pressure from activists and Western governments.

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Significant surge in the price of gold in Pakistan

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On Friday, the price of gold in Pakistan continued to increase.

According to the All-Pakistan Gems and Jewellers Sarafa Association, the price of 24-karat gold per tola has risen by Rs2,200, reaching Rs249,000.

The price of 10-gram 24-karat gold increased by Rs1,886, reaching a total of Rs213,477. On Thursday, the cost of 10 grammes of 22-karat gold was Rs195,687.

The global gold market likewise had a rising trajectory. As per APGJSA, the worldwide rate was $2,404 per ounce, showing a decline of $24 during the course of the trading day.

The local market witnessed constant silver prices at Rs2,900 per tola.

Market observers attribute the increase in gold prices to other variables, such as volatility in the global market, currency exchange rates, and economic conditions. The ongoing surge in gold prices is likely to impact investment choices and consumer behaviour in the near future.

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Gold prices in Pakistan have risen by Rs 1,200 per tola.

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The price of one tola of 24 carat gold rose by Rs1,200 and reached Rs246,800 on Thursday, compared to its previous sale price of Rs245,600 on the last trading day.

According to the All Sindh Sarafa Jewellers Association, the cost of 10 grammes of 24 karat gold rose by Rs1,029 to reach Rs211,591, compared to the previous price of Rs210,562. Similarly, the price of 10 grammes of 22 carat gold jumped from Rs193,016 to Rs193,959.

The price of silver remained unchanged at Rs2,900 per tola and Rs2,486.28 per ten grammes.

According to the association, the international market price of gold rose by $10, reaching $2,382 from $2,372.

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The federal government has declared wage and pension increments for its employees.

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The Ministry of Finance has formally declared a rise in the remuneration and retirement benefits of personnel working for the federal government, offering substantial economic alleviation.

According to the notification, personnel in grades 1 to 16 will experience a 25% increment in their salaries, while officials in grades 17 to 22 will be granted a 20% rise. The implementation of this modification will commence on July 1, 2024, and will be applicable to the employees’ fundamental remuneration.

In addition, retired federal government employees would receive a 15% rise in their pension payments. This increase is applicable to retirees from both the civilian and military sectors. It is important to mention that employees who retire on or after July 1, 2024, will also qualify for this pension rise.

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The 15% increase in pension will be computed based on the amount of pension received by retired employees after deductions. Nevertheless, the letter specifies that ad hoc aid will not be factored into the calculations for pension and gratuity.

Moreover, this increment will have no effect on the calculation of housing rent allowances for employees.

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