Written By: Ghazala Ambreen
Power is the biggest support of our economy but it has become a nuisance for us in recent times. The energy crisis is crippling our economy. In Pakistan, electricity is 60 per cent more expensive than India and 40 per cent more than Bangladesh. As compared to population proportion we are facing extreme shortage of energy that is causing a ripple effect of unemployment, increased crime rate and slow investment. The impending energy crisis has a deteriorating effect on the industry. About 0.5 million power looms have been closed, 0.5 million labourers are out of work and circular debt has reached to over 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 reason being one-fourth ratio of demand and supply.
If new reservoirs are not discovered in time, we would face even more acute problems. In the whole world, substitute sources of energy are opted for in case of such a crisis but we did not develop long or short term projects or try to create energy through alternate means.
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 this crisis developed, it becomes clear that we started selling hydrocarbon on a high price. On the advice of international financial institutions we started privatizing the important institutions rather than investing in them, promoting the culture of commission and license.
When the CNG business started, owners extorted three hundred times the profit from customers. Under-filling of gas was a common occurrence. Moreover, some industry owners also stole gas. According to a rough estimate, only in KP about 12 per cent 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.
There is a need to explore indigenous resources of hydrocarbon and go for efficient energy conservation. We must install coal powered plants and increase the generation capacity. 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 energy efficient products can go a long way in solving the crisis of energy. Inefficient appliances must be done away with, instead alternate forms of renewable energy as wind and solar energy can be used; billboards and irrigation pumps can use solar light. The outdated transmission lines must be installed anew.
A news report of the Daily News Pakistan edition of May 26, 2015 quoted director of Punjab University’s Centre for Coal Technology Prof. Dr. Shahid Munir as elucidating how Thar coal reserves can generate 100,000 megawatts of electricity, as we have 185 billion tons Lignite coal in Thar. Domestic investment is needed to harness the coal reserves in Pakistan, although we cannot overrule long term harms of coal-based energy projects and the pollution factor.
In Balochistan, nine new blocks of 12000 square feet gas reservoirs have been discovered. They can be exploited to address the problem of energy shortage. In Balochistan, electricity can be produced in coastal areas through air and in Punjab through small canals.
Mistrust of the provinces regarding construction of big dams is also there. A suggestion in this regard is that the federal government may allow provincial governments to start projects to create more than 50 megawatts of electricity. De-regulation of NEPRA can also be looked upon if it is essential.
A 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 unfortunately they are not implemented. He was of the view that we have politicized energy sector and a culture of working on ad hoc basis is prevalent. There is a need to operate this sector by depoliticizing it. We must not allow the third party to intervene. Paver distribution and transmission line losses must be reduced. For this the audit of the energy of the whole sector must be ensured. If the institutions which are WAPDA defaulters, clear the outstanding bills, the crisis can be tackled to a great extent.
Tweleve years ago our hydro resources had a major share in producing electricity but we did not build 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 construction and still the work is ongoing. That of Dasu Dam is 5400 megawatts electric power. Ghazi Barotha Project has a potential to generate 1450 megawatts of electricity.
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 its form we collected the junk of the world. It is crucial that total power policy be revised to fight with snowballing energy problem.
The writer works for Ministry of Information and is the Co-Editor of their magazine.