In this series of blogs we will address the crisis of electricity faced by everyone in the country. We will discuss what is the electricity crisis, what are its impacts, what can be done to prevent the damages caused by the crisis, how and when the crisis can be resolved and which stop gap measures can be taken to avert the impacts temporarily. Here is the first part of the series to be followed by the other parts on the subject of the preceding issues.
By Immad Alam
Electricity in today’s industrialized world has assumed an importance of immense proportions. The availability of electricity not only provides impetus to the economic growth but also helps in providing an adequate standard of living. Pakistan for the last one decade finds itself embroiled in a severe electricity crisis. The urban centers have been exposed to power cuts of up to 8 hours and the rural up to even 20 hours per day. Power systems all over the world comprise of 3 major portions (Generation System, Transmission system and distribution system) and to understand Pakistan’s power woes, all three need to be taken into account.
On the generation side, Pakistan has a total installed power generation capacity of 19,780 MW. The share of public sector in the total installed capacity is about 70% while remaining belongs to the private sector. With the current installed capacity, functioning at full capacity for 24 hours and 365 days a year, about 170 Million MWh energy can be produced. Assuming a population of 170 Million, this would result in a per capita energy availability of 1000 KWh which is good enough to sustain a stable standard of living. 1000 KWh per capitahas been recommended as the minimum level by UN as well. However most of the installed capacity has been rendered ineffective. Because of the inter corporate circular debt, low availability of gas and reduced capacity of Hydel resources owing to seasonal changes, the real capacity factor of the total installed capacity turns out to be somewhere close to 50%.
With all these inadequacies in the system, the government of Pakistan reported a per capita electricity consumption of 430KWh in 2006 which is well below 1000 KWh/capita standard set by the UN. According to the latest figures, Pakistan faces a shortfall of 5,500 MW against a peak demand of 13,500 MW which is set to rise as the temperature rises in the peak summer season.
Historical peak demand in the country over the last few years and the projected demand over the next decade is also presented below (data from International Journal of basic and applied sciences).It should also be noted here that this electricity with frequent power cuts is only available to 65% of the population according to government figures while 35% spend their lives in complete darkness.
The antiquated transmission system adds to the misery of the already underperforming generation system. According to the economic survey 2010-2011, the transmission and distribution losses of WAPDA stood at 20% of its net energy produced while KESC’s remained even higher at 31%. Internationally acceptable values for line losses range from 10% to 12%. The transmission and distribution system was built to carry a much smaller load than what it has been subjected to now. As a result much of the generated power is lost within the system itself.
The crisis that Pakistan faces today is as much a result of poor planning and institutional decay as it is of lack of generation resources. Corruption is rampant and most of the state departments themselves have been unable to pay the dues. According to a list presented on 21st November 2011 by the Minister of Water and Power, Rs3.5 million were owed by the Supreme Court, Rs422 million owed by the Pakistan Railways, Rs120 million by the Rangers, Rs49 million by the Senate, Rs8.2 million by the ISI and so on, amounting to a total of Rs 70 Billion. Unless the government makes the resolution of the crisis its top priority and adequate resources are added to the national grid along with weeding out corruption from the system, not much is going to change.
Immad Alam is a Research Writer at Vision21