Fighting Energy Crunch in Pakistan

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Power is the biggest support of our economy but now it has become a trap for us. The energy crisis is crippling the economy. As compared to population proportion we are facing extreme shortage of energy. It creates unemployment and as a result crime rate increases and investment gets slow. In Pakistan electricity is 60 percent more expensive than India and 40 percent more than Bangladesh.

Industry gets destroyed due to energy crisis. About .5 million power looms are closed. .5 million labourers are out of job. Circular debt has reached 250 to 300 billion rupees.

Pakistan lost seven million dollars due to power outages in the year 2010 alone. Ideally there can be petroleum storage for 45 days but currently we have storage reserve for only 20 days. The important reason is there is one fourth ratio of demand and supply.

If new reservoirs are not discovered, we would face even intense problems. In the whole world substitute sources of energy are sought after but we did not go for long term and short term projects or tried to look for alternate ways.

It is not the mere energy generation issue. Wrong policies of the past governments played a role in that also. Socioeconomic issues would aggravate if this issue is not resolved timely. Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi confirmed in June 2016 that there is a huge gap between demand and supply of gas. Currently Pakistan is producing 4 billion cubic feet per day while the demand is 8 billion cubic feet per day. If we explore the reasons why crisis developed it would become clear that we started selling hydro carbons on high price. On the advice of international financial institutions we started privatizing the important institutions rather than investing. The culture of commission and license was promoted. So CNG business started. The owners even extorted three hundred times profit in this business from customers. Under filling of gas was also a common observation. Moreover some industry owners also used to steal gas. According to a rough estimate only in KPK about 12 percent gas is stolen and much is unaccounted for. Old pipelines and unplanned growth in distribution network added to the gravity of the issue. As a result our demand rose intensely and energy crisis became intense in Pakistan.

There is a need to explore indigenous resources of hydrocarbon. We did not go for efficient energy conservation. We are a wasteful nation.  We did not install coal powered plants. We did not increase the generation capacity.

Mere sessions and discussions will not help finish the energy problem. We have to find a solution. Solar energy, wind energy and all other forms of renewable energy must be tried.

There is a need to adopt short term, medium term and long term strategies. Use of more energy efficient products can go a long way to solve the crisis of energy. Conservation of energy is a must. Inefficient appliances must be done away with. Other alternate forms of renewable energy as wind and solar energy can be used. Billboards and irrigation pumps can use solar light. Civil and nuclear projects must be expanded. Our transmission lines are outdated. They must be installed anew.

India installed coal powered plants which are producing 40000 megawatts electricity. 27 dams in India are constructed without asking opinion. But we always looked for opinion polls whenever some mega project was in the pipeline.

A news report of the Daily News Pakistan edition of 26 May, 2015 quoted director of Punjab University’s Centre for Coal Technology Prof Dr Shahid Munir as elucidating how Thar coal reserves can generate 100,00 megawatts of electricity. We have 185 billion tons ignite coal in Thar. Domestic investment is needed to harness the coal reserves in Pakistan. Though we cannot overrule long terms harms of coal based energy projects and the pollution factor.

In Baluchistan nine blocks of 12000 square feet new gas reservoirs are found. They can be exploited to national interest to address the problem of shortage of energy. In Baluchistan electricity can be produced in coastal areas through air and in Punjab through small canals.

The institutions which are WAPDA defaulters, if they clear the outstanding bills then the crisis can be tackled with to a great extent.

Mistrust of the provinces regarding construction of big dams is also there. A suggestion in this regard is that the federal government may go for allowing the provincial governments to start projects for creating more than 50 megawatts of electricity. Deregulation of NEPRA can also be looked upon if it is essential.

Member of the energy expert group Abbas Bilgrami said that there is a lack of integral energy planning. And if at all the policies are devised then many times they are not implemented. He was of the view that we have politicized energy sector and a culture of working on ad hoc basis seems prominent.

There is a need to operate this sector by depoliticizing it. We must not allow the third party to intervene. Generation and line losses must be reduced. For this the audit of the energy of the whole sector must be ensured.

Tweleve years ago our hydro resources had a major share in producing electricity. But we did not make Kalabagh dam and other major hydro projects. The capacity of Diamir Bhasha dam to generate electricity is 4500 megawatt. It took 30 years in its making and still the work is going on. That of Dasu dam is 5400 megawatts electric power. Ghazi Barotha Project has a potential to generate 1450 megawatts of electricity. A speedy completion of all these projects is the need of the time.

Dr Salman Shah, the former Finance Minister of Pakistan while commenting on thermal power plants said that it is an economic principle that energy production has to be on a low cost. Such plants produce expensive electricity. He was of the view that rental power plant experimentation was a big failure and in their form we collected the junk of the world.

It is crucial that total power policy needs to be revised to fight with the snowballing energy problem.