South Asia - Banks hamper Pakistan's plans for rapid growth

PAKISTAN: Pakistan started last year on a bullish note, saying it hoped to add 1.5GW to the country's generating capacity by the end of 2013.

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But it only installed 50MW in 2012 to add to the 6MW it already had. However, German turbine maker Nordex is hoping to start construction on at least two of its five 50MW projects in 2013.

The country's Alternative Energy Development Board announced a target of financing eight projects totalling 550MW and worth $1.6 billion in the southern Sindh province in January 2012. It aimed for them to be generating electricity by this year.

However, by December, the only project to be installed was the 50MW Jhimpir project, developed by FFC Energy using 33 Nordex S77 wind turbines. Earlier in the year, a 56MW project by Turkish developer Zorlu Enerji reached financial close. This was due to be completed by the end of 2012, but has not yet achieved this.

Pakistan is crippled by daily power shortages and has racked up debt of more than $3 billion by importing large amounts of gas and oil. To encourage rapid expansion of the wind sector, the government has introduced a generous feed in tariff (FIT). This pays PKR 12.61/kWh ($0.13/kWh) for foreign-financed projects and PKR 17.28/kWh ($0.18/kWh) for locally-financed projects. The FIT was limited to a maximum capacity of 1.5GW and expired at the end of 2012. The industry expects that the FIT programme will be extended, but this has not yet been formally approved.

This has led to market insecurity among developers and lenders and has prevented the market from really taking off, according to Wim Lansink, head of sales at Nordex Asia. Realising Pakistan's substantial wind power potential would depend largely on the availability of debt funding, he adds. "Wind power is new for Pakistani banks, and though they are interested and have the ability to finance projects, they will take it step by step," Lansink says. International banks have little interest in funding projects in Pakistan due to security risks in the country.

Elsewhere in the region, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka remain at 1MW and 30MW installed capacity respectively.

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