Shehbaz Sharif and other officials at the inauguration of the power plants. Image Credit: Supplied

ISLAMABAD: Inaugurating two coal-fired power plants in Tharparker with a capacity of 1,650 megawatt of electricity generation, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday said the projects would eventually transform the desert into an economic hub.

Shehbaz Sharif said the government will ensure that the transmission lines are laid by April 30 this year for transmitting electricity for consumers countrywide.

The projects, including the 1,320 megawatt Shanghai Electric power plant and 330MW Thal Nova power plant, will annually generate 11.24 billion units of low-cost electricity.

Through the direct investment of $3.53 billion into these projects, the production of coal-based electricity in Thar will increase up to 3,300MW.

The PM directed the Power Minister and his team to speed up the work to lay the transmission lines for adhering to the deadline.

Sharif expressed the resolve that the federal and provincial governments would continue to provide full support for the extraction of Thar coal for electricity production for saving billions of rupees every year otherwise spent on importing expensive fuel for power generation.

He said that those who are against the plan to extract Thar coal for power generation are in fact are opposed to the progress and development of Pakistan.

He said the Thar coal power project emerged as an exemplary achievement of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the energy sector.

In the coming years, similar achievements of CPEC would be seen in the areas of farming, trade, investment, and exclusive economic zones to be built in Pakistan.

Managing Director of the Private Power Infrastructure Board, Shahjahan Mirza, said that all Thar coal-based power projects were fully complied with the environmental protocols of the World Bank and International Finance Corporation.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the project could be materialised as the federal government and the Sindh government worked in harmony to facilitate the masses.

He expressed satisfaction over the level of cooperation between Pakistan and China over carrying out development projects, which he said had resulted in the improvement of health and educational facilities.

Federal Minister for Power Khurram Dastagir said the pluralist government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was committed to providing civic amenities to the people across the country.

He said under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, the development of indigenous resources was a big step towards self-reliance and was also valuable in terms of foreign exchange of the country.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said the political and economic interests of Pakistan and China were aligned for the benefit of the two nations.

He termed the completion of the Thar Coal project a success for all stakeholders from both countries.

Chinese Charge d’Affaires Pang Chunxue said the commercial operation of the Thar coal project ranked high among other coal-fired power plants.

She assured all possible cooperation by the government of China in the field of development and progress.

Shanghai Electric Power Company Limited is the executing agency of the projects, while the Ministry of Energy (Power Division) is the coordinating ministry, and Private Power and Infrastructure Board is the supervising agency.