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How to Resolve Energy Problems of Pakistan?

In general, electricity is a basic necessity for anyone instead of a luxury. In order to attain a certain standard of living, electricity is indispensable. Since, the demand for this energy has been increasing exponentially with the ever-rising number of population of Pakistan, the supply of electricity has been inadequate to fulfill the needs of the people.

The problems of load shedding vary with respect to the urban and rural divide. While the urban areas face this problem around 8-10 hours a day, the rural areas have to suffer 20 hours because of the energy crisis. Seasonality is also a factor to be considered in the duration of load shedding; hence, surviving in summers is not an easy task.

This alarming situation in the country has existed for many years, then why has it not been resolved yet? The government prioritized other expenses such as the construction of Ghazi Brotha Dam and invested in setting up other power plants.

It is quite clear that this burden of not meeting the supply has been transferred to the consumers in the form of heavy bills for both commercial and residential purposes. Thus, the hefty bills resulted in the shutdown of a lot of industries which had better prospects of growing.

The country is blessed to have renewable resources in the region, but these resources have not been utilized properly to generate electricity and meet the requirement. As a result, around 40% of the population has no access to electricity.

To sum up, there are some technical issues and some are managerial issues. On the technical side, the distribution system was developed keeping in mind a smaller power, the grid stations, and other equipment are now outdated, the transmission system is not able to carry a very heavy load and lastly, the outcome produced is not adequate.

As far as the managerial issues are concerned, planning is done to install new generating stations but not executed on time, forecasting of the load is inaccurate, Management Information System (MIS) is not utilized at its full potential.

The solutions to the problem at hand are divided on the basis of tenures i.e. in what time they can be implemented and with respect to what to prioritize first.

Short Term

These solutions include the ways in which some very urgent problems can be resolved.

Power Generating Capability

Currently, the WAPDA and the IPPs are operating their respective plants at a capacity of 50%, which means that the plant is not being utilized at its full potential. The government needs to take initiative to increase this percentage by a certain amount so that it could meet the standards set worldwide i.e. 75% to 80%.

Line Losses

Two major factors contribute to the insufficiency of the electricity. Line losses are on the very higher side (about 16 percent) as compared to standard practices accepted globally which is about 5% of total electricity consumption and secondly people misuse electricity a lot. Hence, the consumers are supposed to be educated. Karachi Electric (K-Electric) company has already taken this step to educate their consumers about electricity usage.

Strict actions are needed to be taken by the concerned authorities in case of any thefts and laws should be enforced on the public.

Another important factor to mention is that WAPDA’s employees enjoy the perks of getting free electricity. As a result, the employees and their families misuse it. These are large in number; hence, actions need to be taken to rationalize the electricity usage by WAPDA employees.

Medium Term

Medium tenure includes solutions which are alternative to the sources of power generation.

Wind Energy

In total around 30,000 MW of electricity is produced by wind energy. Major countries that contribute in this figure are Germany, Spain, USA, Denmark, and India.

Thus, wind energy has the potential to cover up the demand that is not being met by the current source of electricity. The government should plan and execute such projects as soon as possible so that the people of Pakistan can get access to electricity at lower rates.

Solar Energy

For solar energy plant to be installed in a country, there are certain climatic conditions to be met. Pakistan, fortunately, meets that criteria, as it is generally dry and there is less rainfall in the region.

A lot of areas in Pakistan do not have access to electricity at all and hence are not connected with the national grid. With the installation of electricity in these remote areas which are scarcely populated can get live a better life and be able to afford electricity at lower rates.

Long Term

Long-term solutions include setting up large-scale projects and executing them one by one.

An alternative to Thermal Power Fuel

Around 80% of the electricity is produced by oil and gas and hence it makes up a large proportion of our exports. Therefore, it is impossible to destroy the existing power plants and moving on to the new formats, but we can use an alternative fuel i.e. coal. Coal from Thar is of low quality and is quite unstable; hence that couldn’t be used for electricity generation.  However, importing coal to produce electricity can be considered as a substitute for the source being used currently, by the government.

Stand Alone Power Projects           

As mentioned before in the discussion, some of the areas do not have access to electricity at all and some cannot afford to pay the bills specifically in the areas of FATA, Tribal and Northern Areas; hence, standalone projects that are small-scale and confined to these particular areas only can be set up to meet the demand and provide electricity which the general public can easily afford.

Now, these projects can be based on Hydro energy, solar power or wind energy. The areas mentioned above have a climate completely suitable to set up windmills.

The main hurdle in setting up these projects is that NEPRA (National Electric Power Regulatory Authority) is not granting permission to the locals to install their respective plants. Such amendments in the law should be made for better energy prospective.

Change of the Energy Mix

Presently, Pakistan’s Energy sector mainly relies upon Oil and gas based power plants which are the expensive medium of power generation so there is a need to change the current energy mix of Pakistan and shift the balance towards cheaper energy resources like hydropower plants. In the quest to achieve this, we need to explore the potential hydropower generation sights of Pakistan.

National Grid Policy Amendment            

The 18th amendment allows each province to establish their own power plants and get the profits according. In this way, every province will have the opportunity to generate and sell their surplus energy to other provinces and get additional revenue. Additionally, this policy will minimize the load shedding problem all around the country. Thus, the national grid policy should be amended in a way to allocate the resources where needed.

Demand Side Management and Energy Conservation

The gap between the supply and demand of electric energy can be abridged by ameliorating the electricity usage, particularly by adopting time metering techniques. Likewise, the energy usage can also be cut back on the demand side by using energy efficient devices in households and industries. An awareness campaign should be initiated to educate the masses to optimize the electricity consumption.

Conclusion

The government heavily relies on the IPPs for electricity production and in turn gets itself into a problem of circular debt which is a big obstacle in the growth and expansion of the power generation systems.  Another important factor to highlight and to work is the line losses. If line losses are avoided by enforcing strict laws the problem can be solved to a large extent. Lastly, using alternative resources to produce electricity such as wind, solar and hydropower can let Pakistan escape from these crises and make room for its industries to grow and prosper.

Now it’s high time that the government and the people of Pakistan work in a collaborative manner to solve the energy-related issues synergistically to afford this necessity and to run their industries in all sectors proficiently. Moreover, the policymakers need to revise their fiscal policies and their expenditure decisions wisely in order to spend on the energy sector of Pakistan.

About Ahmed Faizan

Mr. Ahmed Faizan Sheikh, M.Sc. (USA), Research Fellow (USA), a member of IEEE & CIGRE, is a Fulbright Alumnus and earned his Master’s Degree in Electrical and Power Engineering from Kansas State University, USA.

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