The electricity crisis that has engulfed Pakistan for the last one decade is of extreme nature and long term steps are needed by the government to find a permanent solution to the crisis. More dams, introduction of coal in the energy mix, and resolution of circular debt are some of the major issues that would require serious attention and resource allocation by the government. It is imperative that the government works earnestly towards a long term solution. It is however, equally important to provide intermediate short term solutions in order to take maximum benefit out of the already installed capacity.
The government must ensure that all the electricity dues, amounting to Rs 70 Billion that the various government departments are yet to pay must be cleared. The payment would help in mitigating the inter-corporate circular debt and IPPs that have been shut down as a result of non-payment can start production of electricity again.
The IPPs that are running at plant factors of close to 50% must be made to realize their actual potential and their capacity factor should be brought close to the international average plant capacity factors of 75-80%. For realizing a higher capacity factor, plants need to maintain better maintenance procedures and it is the government’s job to ensure they meet the necessary standards.
24% of the power that is being generated is lost as a result of inefficient transmission and distribution system. This not only includes the line losses but also electricity theft. Government should introduce smart meters and better procedures for controlling theft besides improving the distribution system. If these losses can be reduced to 10%, 300MW electricity will be saved.
The policy of regulating commercial electricity use as recently proposed by the government to shut down markets after 8pm should be implemented in letter and spirit. The policy though un-popular among the business-men, if implemented will result in reduction of excessive and unnecessary lighting during late hours.
Alternate and renewable energy resources like wind and solar have great potential in Pakistan especially villages and remote areas can greatly benefit from these resources. These are cheap and quick methods of power generation. 16% of the World’s energy needs are being met through alternate energy resources.Almost 100 countries have employed renewable energy resources to meet their energy demands and 45 million houses around the globe are provided electricity through these means.According to US department of energy, wind power is the fastest growing energy source. Total production from wind power around the world is 30000MW with Germany leading the way (12,000MW). Pakistan therefore must also look into tapping these renewable energy resources.
The recent offer of 5000MW electricity by India must also be looked into dispassionately especially since it can provide a temporary respite from the crisis while the government looks for a more permanent solution.
The crisis in Pakistan is therefore, not as much of resources as of governance and planning. There are proven reserves and potential of not only hydel and coal but also solar energy. Electricity and energy however have been a neglected sector in the country. Pakistan must chalk out a plan where all the available resources are tapped for maximum benefit. Future economic growth (industrial needs) and population growth (domestic needs) must be taken into account and energy needs for the next fifty years should be estimated. The government must strive to project a stable environment for international investment so that not only can energy projects be taken up but also the much needed transfer of technology can take place. The future well-being of the people as well as the economic development of the country hinges on a sustained and stable availability of power.
Immad Alam is a Research Writer at Vision21