Bringing hydro power to the rural areas of Pakistan
The North West region of Pakistan is remote and mountainous, and many people live in isolated villages. Geography alone would make it challenging to provide electricity to these villages, since mountain roads are treacherous, some areas are cut off for months by snow in the winter, and there is the ever-present risk of natural disasters including earthquakes and floods. These challenges are compounded by political instability and precarious security conditions. The Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) has worked for many years with communities in the region, and saw first-hand how lack of electricity held back development. It also saw potential for producing electricity from hydro-power as this region is endowed with enormous water resources. So in 2004, SRSP started to develop village-scale micro hydro power schemes with an aim to provide electricity to, mainly, the off grid rural poor/marginalized population. As of August 2015, SRSP has initiated 190 micro hydro schemes mainly with financial support of the European Union to produce over 19 MW of electricity benefitting over 500,000 people. The impact on home comforts, economic opportunities, and wider community development has been huge. These phenomenal efforts have also been recognized and acknowledged by many donors and partners and in 2015 the SRSP was awarded the most prestigious Ashden Award for increasing energy access in the developing world. Expanding outreach of sustainable energy is a high priority and the SRSP plans to initiate over 170 new micro hydro schemes in 2016 taking the total to over 350 units to produce 35 MW of electricity benefiting over 700,000 people.
To enhance the accessibility to clean energy for improving local environment and strengthening livelihoods.
The off-grid rural poor living in remote areas in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.
- For 90% of the people living in isolated and challenging terrain the SRSP micro hydro scheme provides first ever access to clean and renewable electricity.
- The dim and dirty kerosene lamps and pine-torches are replaced with bright electric light, which has multiple benefits; income generating activities (embroidery by women) can be undertaken in evening (free) time, children study better with an improved performance and attendance, women and children feel safer to be outdoors at nights.
- The possibility of using labor saving appliances such as washing machines, electric butter churners, electric irons, kettles and microwave ovens cut the drudgery of housework for women.
- Electricity has improved community services. E.g. health centers and hospitals have good quality lighting for examination and procedures and can also run pathology tests and refrigerate vaccines. Similarly schools with good lighting and computers can teach better and broad their curriculum. In some areas IT centers have been set up for both access and training on computers and the internet.
- Electricity from hydro schemes cuts down the use of wood for cooking, heating and lighting. This has helped in reducing deforestation, which is one of the major issues of this region. An estimated 110,000 MWh electricity generated each year has replaced diesel generation producing 0.8 tonnes CO2 per MWh. This suggests a substantial green house gas saving of 88,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. With all units completed by 2016 greenhouse gas savings of 150,000 tonnes of CO2 per year is likely to be achieved.
- Women businesses (e.g. fruit drying, baking, and beauty parlours) have flourished in the region increasing incomes of women by up to 160%.
- One of the key features of these micro hydro schemes is the introduction of technological improvements to maximize efficiency of the units. To maximize efficiency, direct coupling of locally manufactured cross flow turbines with alternators and gear box system is introduced.
- Programme logic control (PLC) based panels are introduced for the first time in micro hydro power projects (MHPs) at this level. For controlling fluctuation in voltage, electrical load controllers (ELC) in micro-mini units have also been introduced. Brushless alternators of reputed imported brands are incorporated keeping in view site requirements regarding altitude, temperature and ELC factor.
- Due to the very high cost of imported PLC-based hydraulic governors, an extensive one year research project with the local private sector actor has resulted in developing the same governors at national level for the first time. These locally manufactured PLC governors have been tested and installed at all new sites saving useful resources. In most units, cylindrical steel poles are used to avoid wooden poles thus avoiding deforestation. For controlling line losses, properly designed and tested conductors are being used along with transformers.
- Two models of service delivery are developed and followed. MHPs with capacity of up to 75 kW are categorized as small projects. On the contrary, larger projects (100 kW and above) are treated as Social Enterprises and here a more robust model is developed and followed. To manage larger ventures, power committees are established and their technical capacities are enhanced. The established power committees determine tariffs for domestic users, follow up on connections, collect revenues and check irregularities.
- Within a year (for smaller units) or up to three years (for larger units) the legal ownership is transferred to local community based organizations (CBOs) comprising members of power committees established locally for management and maintenance of these micro hydro schemes. Need-based technical support through SRSP is always a key feature if required.
To manage micro hydro schemes on a sustainable basis, power operation & maintenance committees are established and their technical capacities are enhanced. These committees determine tariffs for users, follow up on connections, collect revenue, ensure continuous maintenance of all parts and structure of MHPs and regular monitoring of micro catchment area for sustained water flow. A one-time connection cost; PKR 2,000 (USD 19) for domestic and PKR 4,000 (USD 38) for commercial users is yet another unique feature of these MHPs, which is set aside in designated bank accounts for any unforeseen rehabilitation as a result of major breakdown or natural disaster. In addition to one time connection charges, the regular revenue generation through provision of services contributes to the remuneration of paid technical staff and the undertaking of regular operation and maintenance of MHPs. Adoption of this professional approach has led to ensuring sustainable operation of the units. A recent assessment of 11 selected MHPs revealed a healthy figure of PKR 4.5 million (USD 43,000) as surplus available with designated power operation and maintenance committees. In other words, increased reliability of electricity through these MHPs has ensured willingness to pay for such quality services in a country where electricity theft is a common phenomenon.
Pakistan and the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are endowed with plenty of water resources, have rich potential for hydropower generation estimated at 60,000 MW, which could be economically harnessed. Out of this vast hydropower potential only 11% has been developed so far. In view of multiple challenges for Pakistan hydropower is one of the best available options in the current scenario to meet challenges of projected future energy demands as it is sustainable, reliable, renewable, clean, low cost and indigenous and thus can be a principal source of energy. Efforts, invariably, needs to be directed towards development of untapped hydropower potential in Pakistan and especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as hydropower resources are mainly located in mountainous areas in the northern region of Pakistan. In response to severe energy crisis, the SRSP in partnership with major donors like the EU, the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund and the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has taken proactive steps to utilize immense hydro power potential for providing renewable and sustainable energy. The micro hydro schemes are well received by local communities, public and private institutions, and political representatives. In fact, to reduce the pressure on the main grid, the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has revitalized the defunct micro hydro development organization besides allocating an appreciable amount of 45 million Euros for promoting similar micro hydro schemes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The SRSP field teams essentially comprising electrical engineers provide class room and on-the-job training to local operators who are typically members of community based organizations. This is done to cater for the need for minor repairs/troubleshooting in order to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity in off-grid areas benefiting marginalized communities. Following capacity building events, the SRSP ensures to carry out refreshers at regular intervals for further enhancing technical capacities of these local operators.
In case of the MHPs (once it is identified as one of their priority needs and if it is found feasible as per social and technical surveys) a clear message is delivered at community level ensuring broad based participation of members of target areas. Following delivery of message, detailed terms of partnerships are shared to elaborate roles and responsibilities to be assumed by the SRSP and local communities including;
- Donation of land to construct power channels and power houses.
- Willingness to participate in construction of channels and power houses and transportation of electro-mechanical equipment to the site.
- Monitoring quality of work as per designs and layouts.
- Ensure swift and timely completion of MHPs and small hydro power projects (SHPs).
- Identify and nominate suitable community members to be trained as local operators.
Once M/SHP is completed a community gathering is organized and a dialogue is held with the beneficiary community on operation, maintenance and management of micro hydro projects. All relevant operational and technical details are shared by SRSP professionals followed by requesting beneficiary local CBOs to nominate suitable persons (3-6 members) for becoming members of power committees to look after operation and maintenance of the micro hydro scheme. Dialogues with these nominated members are helpful in developing modalities of operation and maintenance including setting tariffs, billing schedules, revenue collection, continuous maintenance of parts/structures of micro hydro schemes. Thus, formation of O&M committees ensures sustainability of community MHP schemes besides contributing to collective action and social cohesion. These points explained above are part of broad steps followed at the SRSP to ensure and develop community’s ownership right from the inception to the handing over of MHPs. Communities, during this whole process, are not passive members but rather they are seen as active partners with inherent capacity to manage, monitor and maintain their projects through their own resources and wisdom.
- At least 500,000 people are benefitting through these micro hydro schemes, which is a strong factor to promote social cohesiveness.
- The SRSP micro hydro schemes have made a significant contribution in providing renewable, clean and sustainable energy to the local population in programme areas, which has reduced usage of fossil fuels besides reducing pressure on precious forests. These schemes have encouraged households and businesses to stop the use of other makeshift measures such as costly diesel/gasoline generators.
- The female members of the Business Interest Group (fresh fruits) have started utilizing hydro-electricity for drying fruits to fetch better price in the market. On trial basis, red persimmon has been processed (dried) by male and female members in Swat and marketed in local markets. This dry fruit fetched a net income of PKR. 440 (USD 4) per Kg equivalent to an increase in income of more than 160%.
- The electricity produced through completed MHPs has immensely contributed to benefitting 58 local hotels accommodating (on average) a minimum of 870 guests per day. Furthermore, at least 585 local enterprises (flour mills, welding machines, gasoline stations, grocery shops etc.) have also been connected to these MHPs to generate local employment benefiting the local economy. At least 570 local community members are also engaged as technical operators for currently initiated MHPs.
- 13 boys and girls schools benefiting over 1,700 children have been connected to these micro hydro schemes with an improvement in learning environment. In addition, seven Basic Health Units are also availing services in programme areas catering to needs of 325 patients per day mostly women and children.
- Community members have started using available time for productive activities and socialization.
The public institutions have set up two types of tariffs; 12/unit for normal hours and 18/unit for peak hours. Notwithstanding, high rates, power outage for minimum of 8 hours in urban areas and 12-16 hours/day in rural areas has added miseries to life of urban and rural population connected to the main grid. This unreliability and limited availability of electricity dramatically reduced its value and potential uses to both households and businesses. On contrary, the SRSP developed micro hydro schemes that are providing 24/7 electricity to domestic and commercial users at much lower cost. In general, 4/unit is charged for domestic and 7-10/unit for commercial use, which has resulted in relieving economic stress at community level especially. The mentioned rates are determined by the respective power committees set up locally in light of operation & maintenance costs of MHP per month as well as the local context.
First and foremost the local champions of this project are the members of local communities, who have taken an active part in supporting implementation of these micro hydro schemes besides contributing in cash, kind or labor for timely completions of these units. The interest and support of local politicians, bureaucracy and district administration at all steps of implementation is also commendable. The interface of politicians and bureaucracy with the SRSP and frequent visits to these micro hydro schemes has also resulted in initiating a mega project by the provincial government to install similar micro hydro schemes in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan for provision of renewable and sustainable energy.
A detailed monitoring and evaluation plan at the outset of the programme was an integral part of the SRSP M&E system. Quantitative and qualitative indicators are developed for all micro hydro schemes to gauge progress and performance of these units. In addition, case studies and internal evaluations are also conducted for assessing long term impacts of these units. These figures, studies and evaluations are published for others to benefit.
The technology that the SRSP has used in micro hydro schemes is an improvement on the rudimentary systems that were established in the 1990s in Pakistan. Those initial years saw development of small scale units (up to 75 kW) to avoid using complex technology. In contrast, the rich blend of funding (especially from the European Union) and technical/technological know-how of the SRSP has also resulted in initiation of large scale MHPs (from 500 kW to 1 MW). This improvement in technology and provision of quality services has been acknowledged at many forums and by key stakeholders especially public institutions. Through regular information sharing and engagement of key stakeholders the SRSP micro hydro schemes have contributed to influencing policy makers and refined policy on energy in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The Chairman of one of the leading political parties, the Chief Minister along-with all cabinet members have visited selected micro hydro schemes and appreciated this state of the art technology. These frequent visits and interaction with the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has led to developing and initiating a mega project (€45 million) by the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to engage non-government organizations and private sector entities for initiation and completion of 356 micro hydro projects in 12 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa producing 35 MW of electricity.
Name:Bringing hydro power to the rural areas of Pakistan
Sarhad Rural Support Programme
- Micro Hydro (5-100 kW)
- Small Hydro (0.1-10 MW)
- Energy supply
- Productive uses
Project status:Ongoing project