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Law being amended to hand over power stations to communities

By Manzoor Ali
PESHAWAR: After failing to hand over 256 micro-hydel power projects to the local communities in the province during the last four years, the ruling PTI has decided to amend the Pakhtunkhwa Energy Development Organisation (Pedo) Act 1993 to remove legal hurdles in this respect.
The Pedo Act 1993 disallows the transfer of power projects to the government agencies other than Pedo or local communities, while the planning and development department has been reluctant to approve these projects under the Public-Private Partnership Act.
The programme titled ‘Ujaloon ka Safar’ was launched by the last PTI government to execute 356 MHPs in 12 hilly districts of the province through NGOs.
However, the number was increased to 1,000 in 2016 with the assistance of the World Bank, while its scope was expanded to all parts of the province.
The current provincial cabinet was briefed about the issue in its Nov 22 meeting.
The energy and power department informed participants that the programme was launched for the electrification of remote and off-grid areas of the province through these micro-hydel projects as the residents of those areas didn’t have electric supply.
The proposed law drafted by the energy and power department and presented to the cabinet notes that in order to meet the energy needs of these areas, the government had embarked on the initiative to build 356 dams in northern districts of the province, put up 512 micro-hydel units on rivers and tributaries and execute 162 micro-hydel projects on canals under the access to clean energy programme.
It said the cabinet was told that of 356 MHPs, only 256 had been successfully executed and that those units should be handed over to the local communities after their successful testing and commissioning to ensure their long-term sustainability as outlined in the original project planning.
However, the document pointed out that the Pedo’s legal adviser had earlier chosen the Public Private Partnership Act, 2014, to cover the construction of these MHPs and its subsequent handover to the local communities.
It said after a series of meeting between the planning and development, finance and law departments, the public-private partnership unit of the P&D department finally concluded that the Public-Private Partnership Act, 2014, umbrella didn’t cover the project and therefore, the other option available with the government was to amend the Pedo Act, 1993.
The document the Pedo Act 1993 imposed restrictions on the handing over of all power schemes of any capacity to other agencies.
The cabinet was informed that that Clause 18(2) of the law in question would be amended to allow power generating projects up to two megawatts capacity to other agency or community, while Section 8(2) said the government would have the power to direct the organisation to hand over any scheme other than power one or the power part of a multipurpose scheme carried out by it to any agency of the government or a local body.
The draft amendment proposed to substitute this clause with the organisation with the prior approval of the government, shall have the power to hand over power generation scheme or part of the power plant of multipurpose scheme having capacity not exceeding 2MWs, carried out by it to any agency of government, local body, community base organisation, non-government organisation or local community, as the case may be, in the best public interest on such terms and conditions as deemed appropriate by the board.
The Pedo board had also taken up the issue in its Oct 26 meeting, in which the participants were informed that the organisation was facing numerous problems regarding MHPs sustainability and handing over the projects to communities to manage them by themselves.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2018.

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