The power crisis is getting worse and various short-term solutions being offered are not the answer.
The writer is a financial adviser and chartered accountant at Industrial Alliance Securities Inc in Toronto
The power crisis is getting worse and various short-term solutions being offered are not the answer. Wapda’s chairman’s assessment that the power shortage will last until 2018 is optimistic when the increase in demand over the next seven years is factored in.
The power shortage is harmful to the country’s economy and it is pulling down Pakistan’s GDP growth. The funds spent on import of power generators and their fuel is an enormous drain on the economy. Larger industries can afford power generators, but small/medium enterprise, which are any nation’s primary growth engine, cannot. We need a solution to take care of Pakistan’s power requirements for the next 20 years. Expensive import-based, oil-run power generation is not the answer. These have already increased Pakistan’s fuel import bill. Gas based projects are also not the answer as the country’s gas supply is limited.
A possible home-grown, energy solution, based on wind and solar energy, can be used. Many countries in the world have implemented alternative energy programmes. Spain is already producing 73 per cent of its power needs from wind and solar energy. Though technology is still evolving for solar energy, a more immediate solution is wind energy. The Karachi to Gwadar coastline has enormous potential for generating wind energy. Wind towers can generate between 7,000 to 10,000 MW of electricity. There will be certain challenges to accomplish this, but all the solutions are within Pakistan’s grasp and we need not depend on foreign assistance.
The main challenges are production and availability of wind turbines, safety and security of turbines, transmission lines to feed the national grid, capital cost of the project and long-term maintainability of the project. India has started producing wind turbines domestically. It is not rocket science and Pakistani scientists can master this technology if mandated by the government. If our scientists can produce a nuclear weapon, they can produce wind turbines. The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission should be entrusted to design and build these turbines. The facilities at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra, Heavy Mechanical Complex and Karachi Shipyard can also be used. Once domestic needs are met, Pakistan could become a major exporter of wind turbines.
The solution for safeguarding wind turbines is to offer free electricity to those villages in Balochistan where wind turbines are installed. In return, villagers should be asked to ensure the safety of these turbines. The power consumption of these villages is likely to be minimal and this could also pacify the Baloch populace. Internationally, a five MW wind turbine costs around five million dollars. Pakistan should be able to produce these considerably cheaply, possibly at less than one million dollars. Wind turbines usually have a long life and as long as rotating parts are changed upon reaching their maximum life, wind turbines can last 50 years. Also, as wind turbines require no fuel, there is no running cost other than maintenance cost. With low initial and minimal running costs, electricity can be procured at a considerably lower price, avoiding the need to increase power rates frequently.
If Pakistan is to develop at a faster pace to attain a seven to eight per cent GDP growth, then it is imperative to address its energy needs. Pakistan is currently short by between 3,000 to 5,000 MW and if a major plan of action is not put into place now, the shortage is likely to be around 20,000 MW within 10 years. Wind energy is a fast and cheap solution. This programme should be given the same priority as Pakistan’s nuclear programme was once accorded.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2011.
Read more: powercrisis
The energy policy of Pakistan is formulated and determined by the federal, provincial, and local institutional entities in Pakistan, which address the issues of energy production, distribution, and consumption of energy, such as gas mileage and petroleum standards.Energy policy requires the proper legislation, international treaties, subsidies and incentives to investment, guidelines for energy conservation, taxation and other public policy techniques.
Several mandates and proposals have been called over the years to overlook the energy conservation, such as Neon signs were banned and the official weekend was extended from one to two days in an attempt to conserve electricity (Gillani, 2010) and reducing the electricity load used by industrial units by 25% during peak hours (Aziz, 2007), but no comprehensive long-term energy strategies were implemented. Since 1999, many legislative provisions were adopted for energy conservation including the seeking energy from various renewable energy sources. There is also an intense criticism about the unequal distribution of energy, the irresponsible usage of energy sources, and the country's new plan which is aimed to raise country's dependence on imported oil for power generation to 50% by 2030. After much public criticism, the long-term energy security policy was announced in 2013 through the introduction of equal cutting edge energy transmission network, minimising financial losses across the energy system and aligning the ministries involved in the energy sector as well as improving the governance of energy sources.
Studies and policy implementation recommended by AEDB, Water ministry (as policy enforcer), the NEPRA regulates the energy sources network as well as determining the financial prices of the usage of energy. Government-specific energy-efficiency incentive programs also play a significant role in the overall energy policy of Pakistan. As of 2013 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced a determined and aggressive energy policy to meet the energy challenges and energy management.
Energy authorities and institutions
In the 1960s, a large civilian energy input and infrastructure was built by the Pakistan military, with the financial funds provided by various countries and international monetary sources. In the 1960s, much of the energy was produced by the hydroelectric dams and thermal power stations. In the 1970s, Pakistan's energy consumption expanded to nuclear power sources with the establishment and commissioning of first nuclear power station in Karachi. In the 1980s, the dependence on nuclear sources further grew and the military continued engineering and building the nuclear power infrastructure.
In 1994, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) launched the country's first ever and largest energy conservation program to produce 13,000MW and issues 70 Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) and Letters of Intent (LOIs) to Independent Power Producers (IPPs). This 1994 energy policy brought a decisive shift in Pakistan's diverse energy sources. In 1994, out of the total installed capacity of 11000MW, ~60% of energy was produced from the hydroelectric power sources while nearly ~40% was produced from the thermal and nuclear sources. According to the economic statistics provided by economist, Sartaj Aziz, this mix was reversed from 60:40 to 30:70 in favour of thermal capacity based on imported fuel. Every year, this ratio went down further to 20:80 in winter months as hydropower generation was reduced due to lower water flows in the rivers.
Controversially, the energy policy depended less on renewable energy sources and dependence on imported oil increased that created a permanent fault in country's energy conservation system. By 1995, only 27 IPPs were able to generate ~6,335MW of electricity. By 1998, the ratio was stabilised by the policies enforced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In 2001, the military government led by President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, while contributing to the growth of domestic demand for electricity through large-scale provision of bank loans for the purchase of air-conditioners and home appliances (share of domestic energy consumption had jumped to 46% of the total by 2008), did not add any new capacity to the energy system. In 2012 Pakistan's first wind power installation came online at the FFCEL Wind Energy Project in Jhimpir.
Energy policy: 2008–10
In 2005, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz announced the long-term energy security program which was aimed to the development of the power infrastructure from all energy sources. This policy relied on privatising the energy sector by international mega energy corporations. Controversially, this program was aimed to raise dependence on imported oil from the Arab countries for power generation to be increased by 50.1% by 2013.
In 2006, Prime Minister Aziz held conversation with the officials of the SaudiMinistry of Petroleum and invited Ali Al-Naimi to invest in country's energy sector. In 2007, Prime Minister Aziz allocated ₨. 12.5 billion for power production-related projects which remained unused. In his last policy statement, Prime Minister Aziz further called for banning the Neon lights, Neon signs, and to close the market places by 9 pm; such policy enforcement was harshly resisted by the left-wing parties, such as Pakistan Peoples Party, Communist Party and the labour unions.
Energy Policy: 2010–13
After the general elections held in 2008, the mismanagement and weak policies led to an intense repetitive cycle of loadshedding in the country. Responding to a massive demonstration against the loadshedding and the growing power shortages in the country, Prime Minister, Yousaf Gilani announced the "energy policy" on 22 April 2010.
The policy was announced after the Prime Minister, Gilani had held a three-day national energy conference in Islamabad with energy experts that discussed the causes of the power crisis in Pakistan and possible steps to relieve it. On an immediate effects, the gaseous Neon lights and the signs were banned and the official weekend was extended from one to two days in an attempt to conserve electricity. Under this policy, several attempts were made by Gilani government to privatise the energy sector. Devised by the Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, the programme failed to resolve electricity shortage, which private energy companies failed to maintain and upgrade despite being part of their contract. After much criticism and public demonstration in 2012, the PPP government decided to nationalised the energy sector and issued clear directives to regulate the energy corporations to produce the power generations.
Energy Policy: 2013–Present
Musadik Malik has been entrusted to develop Energy Policy for Pakistan. He was appointed Federal Minister, Water and Power of the Pakistan Government in 2013.
He has advised a large number of cabinet ministers on national health and economic policies in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Pakistan and Puerto Rico. Dr Malik's success also includes the establishment of two management consulting businesses in the Middle East and growing them to over $20 million in revenue. In addition, he has served as the Vice President and Regional Director of Charles River Associates (CRA International), and held leadership positions at Arthur D. Little and SRI International.
The 2010 amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution (para. 3), empowered each province to formulate the policy framework for the development of public and private sector power generation. This has led to the formation of dedicated provincial departments and empowered public sector companies specialized in renewables to foster and execute power projects through public, private and public–private partnership modes using indigenous power resources.
Conservation and consumption
Due to rising demand and a failing power infrastructure severe electricity shortages have occurred in Pakistan. This has led to widespread rolling blackouts that have paralysed industry and led to protests and rioting.Power outages can last 6–8 hours a day in the cities and many more in the rural areas. According to Mahnaz Parach of Network for Consumer Protection "Children can't do their homework. Housework doesn't get done, as washing machines and other appliances cannot work. When you go home from work, you have no idea whether there will be electricity at home. Your whole life is disturbed."
Experts have warned of an impending energy crisis since 2006. Speaking at a Seminar 'Fueling the Future: Meeting Pakistan's Energy Needs in the 21st Century' held in Washington, D.C. in June 2006 then energy adviser to the prime minister of Pakistan Mukhtar Ahmed stated that the country was taking steps to address the energy shortage.Pakistan Electric Power Company estimates that there is a shortage of 6 gigawatts or about 60% of its total generation. One of the main reasons of the shortage is thought to be the failure of past governments to anticipate growth in need and the delay in implementation of projects to increase power production. In addition there is widespread power theft and lack of investment in the existing power grid.
The United States has made improving Pakistan's power infrastructure one of its top priorities. US special envoy Richard Holbrooke, while describing the power situation in Pakistan as "unacceptable," has stated that the US would go to its "absolute limits" to help Pakistan overcome the crisis.
Power sources and electrical energy
Measures are aimed at cutting consumption by 500 megawatts. The official weekend has been extended from one to two days. Neon signs and decorative lights have been banned. Power has been cut to government offices by 50% and air conditioners will only be allowed to be switched on after 11 am. Street markets have been asked to close early. Commercial centres except drug stores will be closed at 8 pm and wedding celebrations will be limited to three hours. The government will pay off its $1.38 billion debt to power producers allowing them to pay fuel suppliers. Power supply to Pakistan's commercial capital Karachi will be decreased by 300 megawatts to allow fairer distribution of power to the remaining parts of the country.Tube wells will not be allowed to operate from 7 pm to 11 pm. The measures will be reviewed on 30 July 2010.
Consumption by computers
Main articles: Computing in Pakistan and Green computing
Since the early 1990s, the country has observed the highest growth rate in usage of computers that effect the supply of the electricity produced in the system. In a survey published by the Express Tribune, around ~30 million citizens (out of 180 million), uses the internet on daily basis; the internet penetration in the country has reached 16% as of 2013.
Variations by regions
In the days following the announcement, traders in Lahore rejected the government's decision and kept the markets open after 8 pm in defiance of the ban. Shops were kept open in other cities also after 8 pm. Kashif Shabbir, president of the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce warned the situation would get worse if authorities used force to implement the decision. There was confusion over implementation of the two-day weekend, and many banks and educational institutions remained open. Commenting on the defiant mood of the traders, an editorial in Dawn urged everybody to find middle ground.
Reacting to the decision to curtail power supply to Karachi, the "City of Lights", leaders of various political parties in the Provincial Assembly of Sindh condemned the decision and some of them called it "a conspiracy to create a law and order situation." Former Nazim of Karachi, Naimatullah Khan warned that curtailing the power supply of the city could lead to street battles between protesters and law enforcement.
Some analysts have predicted that reduction in the banks' workweek to 5 days will result in revenue losses.
The prevailing energy crisis in Pakistan is taking away 2 percent (or Rs 380 billion) of the economy, despite the government has spent Rs 1.1 trillion as subsidies on the sector in the last four-year which accounts for 2.5 percent of the total volume of economy.
During June 2012, President Asif Ali Zardari had said that the government realised the enormity of the challenge of energy shortage and was determined to overcome it in the shortest possible time.
Pakistan is already importing small quantity of electricity from Iran to supply power to Gwadar town. Pakistan is also actively considering to import electricity from India and Tajikistan. World Bank offered to finance for conducting the feasibility study to import 1200 MW power from India.
Pakistan is also exploring to import PNG via pipe line through Wagha border from India. India would import the required LNG and re-gasified LNG (RLNG) would be pumped through its pipelines up to the border point.Iran–Pakistan gas pipeline is pending for a long time to receive PNG from Iran for the needs of both Pakistan and India.
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