Energy crisis is perhaps the biggest problem Pakistan faces today. Over the years, lack of accountability and myopic government policies have been the reasons due to which not only does Pakistan suffer hours-long load-shedding, but the soaring petroleum prices have also curtailed its usage as an alternative source of energy. Consequently, the demand for electricity far outweighs its supply. Recently, it has been reported by the Hydrocarbon Institute of Pakistan that Pakistan’s installed electricity-generation capacity, through various energy sources including hydroelectric, thermal and nuclear, totals 23,101 MW whereas the total generation during last 2 years has gone up by 2%, i.e. from 71,712 Gwh to 73,209 Gwh. However, the underlying question remains that even with gradual increase in electricity generation, why Pakistan still suffers from unrelenting hours of blackouts?
In order to find out the reasons for the unending energy crisis in Pakistan, it is imperative that we delve into the primary factors due to which Pakistan faces this affliction. For over a decade now, the recurring issue of circular debt has been a pivotal cause of the energy crisis, since suppliers tend to face cash flow problems due to which electricity generation does not meet its fullest capacity. Henceforth, more dependence on oil as an alternative for energy not only enhances circular debt, but also tends to elevate the cost of electricity and, therefore, government has to spend more on subsidies. In FY 2014-15 an amount of Rs. 350 billion was allocated as subsidy while the actual subsidy comes close to Rs. 600 billion, hence further aggravating the crisis.
The worn-out and aging machinery used in power generation is yet another cause for the electricity shortage, since the equipment used for power generation has depreciated and has thus become less efficient i.e. not meeting the required capacity. Thus it is imperative that Federal Minister for Water & Power makes it his primary duty to upgrade all the equipment and machinery for electricity generation, and keep a general refurbishment and maintenance of the existing machinery so as to curtail the ongoing crisis. Government’s lackluster performance as far as the energy sector is concerned is not only witnessed through the aforementioned problems, but also in its mismanagement and duping of the public, which was vividly seen in the Nandipur project. This much-hyped project has been generating the most expensive electricity along with 80 power plants operating in the country despite having advanced machinery. The very reason this project has been in the limelight is in its immoderate failures, including those regarding cost-overturns along with allegations of gross mismanagement and colossal corruption. Hence, government’s lack of proactive and integrated planning for the production of energy has been a pivotal reason for the unceasing load-shedding in the country.
Besides government’s poor governance that has made the energy crisis an unending dilemma, what seems to make it an even more troubling condition is the reduction being witnessed in the hydropower generation. This situation dates back to the Kalabagh Dam project, which culminated into its abandonment by the previous PPPP-led regime as it had caused ‘political rifts’ and ‘indecisiveness’ among the masses. Since then, the full potential of hydel power in Pakistan remains untapped and unexploited.
Due to the aforementioned causes, not only Pakistan witnesses a perpetual energy crisis but this prolonged crisis has had been detrimental to country’s economy as well. Energy is pivotal for running all other resources of economy, and likewise all the industries. For over eons now, economic progress has been hampered due to a substantial fall in agricultural productivity, since there is unstable provision of energy for running tube-wells. The cost of production has appreciated because electricity has become more expensive, because of which the demand for consumer products has become elastic, and henceforth the industries have been at a loss.
However, the sector that has been thumped the most is the domestic sector, since hours-long load-shedding has been an insurmountable hindrance to daily activities of the people due to which huge resentment among them is created. Even amid such scorching heat, long hours of power failures, especially in the rural areas, only cause nuisance and obstruction in the lives of people, especially those who fully depend on subsistence farming as a means of earning bread.
Nonetheless, the menace of energy crisis can be countered if government plays a proactive and constructive role. This is possible only through drawing up of effective policies and their efficient implementation thereupon. Concurrently, it is our responsibility to utilize the available energy wisely and as responsible citizens of the state.
Moreover, improvement is needed in billing as well because it is inevitable to improve the cash flows, which will help in increasing power production and reduce its shortage. This, however, can be done by prudent administrative actions, better management practices and strict accountability of negligent and incompetent officials. Furthermore, liquidating circular debt i.e. calling for a budget which accounts for all the records of cash flows made and constant supplying of gas to the power sector for generation of more energy at an affordable cost can largely affect the production of energy in Pakistan. Furthermore, making policies or taking measures to attract public investment in power sector and make GENCOs and DISCOs efficient could solve the energy crisis for good. But, at the end of the day, it is the government that should prioritize investment in power sector, if Pakistan wishes to resolve this energy crisis.
However, is even more important is to conserve energy for the coming generations of Pakistan which is only possible if indigenous resources are tapped in and used to advantage i.e. for generation of energy. For example, the area of Thar has coal in abundance which could be used in power generation. Moreover, utilizing alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, and tidal as means to generate more energy could be immensely useful for Pakistan. Most importantly, the hydel power potential in Pakistan still remains untapped, which is of most significance to Pakistan. After all, as R. Buckminster Fuller said: “There is no energy crisis, only a crisis of ignorance.”