Badly hit by growing electricity and gas shortages in Pakistan’s Punjab province, many textile manufacturers are trying to switch over to ‘alternate’ energy solutions to operate their factories even if it means heavy investments and increased running costs. In Lahore, for instance, Nishat Mills Limited is setting up a large power plant that will use coal, municipal solid waste and agriculture waste — rice husk, cotton stems, etc — to produce steam for its finishing and dyeing processing and 12 megawatt of electricity to keep its machines operative. The $20 million power plant will rid the mill of its dependence on the erratic gas and electricity supply from the state-owned utilities. The project is an attempt by the company to become “energy self-sufficient”. “We are setting up the plant to primarily produce steam (currently being produced by burning natural gas) for the textile processing. Electricity will be a by-product,” Ahmed Jahangir, executive director of Nishat Mills, told this writer during a recent visit to the factory. “The completion of the power plant will almost halve our cost of producing steam and generating power from diesel and furnace oil at its current prices during long periods of gas curtailment (by the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines) to the industry,” he said. But it will be double the cost of gas at its current tariff for the industry. “Though our energy costs will increase, our dependence on erratic gas and power supplies will end once the plant becomes operational,” said Ahmed, adding that the company had decided to make such huge investments in this project in order to ensure that, “we do not lose our buyers due to delays in shipment of orders on account of gas and electricity gas shortages.” Pakistan is in the grip of serious energy crisis. While some bigger groups have resources to shift to alternate fuels or set up their own power plants, others remain dependent on energy supplies from the state utilities. Ahmed says a couple of other big manufacturers too had set up alternate power plants but those were not efficient enough. Rana Arif Tauseef, chairman of the Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA), says some medium sized manufacturers had tried to shift to the alternate fuels like agriculture waste.