In­no­va­tive So­lu­tions

Enterprise - - Editor's Desk -

The gov­ern­ment re­cently held an En­ergy Con­fer­ence to find a so­lu­tion to the coun­try’s de­bil­i­tat­ing en­ergy cri­sis. The rec­om­men­da­tions are sim­ple: gov­ern­ment of­fices to work five days a week; con­serve street-light­ing; close com­mer­cial cen­tres at 8 pm; en­force dif­fer­ent of­fice hours dur­ing win­ter and sum­mer; cut power sup­ply to bill­boards; use en­ergy savers in­stead of reg­u­lar bulbs; al­lo­cate ad­di­tional gas to power com­pa­nies; con­trol power theft and in­stall pre­paid me­ters in all gov­ern­ment build­ings.

Would this be enough? Hardly, since the en­ergy cri­sis is huge and re­quires more in-depth so­lu­tions than a mere cos­metic and short­term ap­proach to save a few hun­dred megawatts. As pointed out in a re­port re­cently re­leased by the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank, the coun­try’s econ­omy con­tin­ues to be af­fected by struc­tural prob­lems which in­clude a do­mes­tic en­ergy cri­sis, a pre­cip­i­tous de­cline in in­vest­ment, per­sis­tently high in­fla­tion plus se­cu­rity is­sues. The re­port sees power as the main con­straint for eco­nomic growth and has stressed bet­ter load-man­age­ment to min­i­mize com­mer­cial losses. It says losses aris­ing from power and gas short­ages held down Pak­istan’s GDP growth by 3 to 4 per­cent­age points in FY2011 and FY2012 . The re­port states that “im­proved man­age­ment of power re­sources could ame­lio­rate pre­dictabil­ity of load-shed­ding to al­low the pri­vate sec­tor to bet­ter sched­ule work and min­i­mize costs.”

In this back­drop, it is heart­en­ing to note that cer­tain quar­ters have come for­ward with valu­able sug­ges­tions on how the coun­try could pos­si­bly tackle the en­ergy cri­sis in a more prag­matic man­ner. Pak­istan spends some 9.4 bil­lion dol­lars ev­ery year to pro­duce about 81 per­cent of its electricity through oil and gas. This has ex­panded the ther­mal power gen­er­a­tion in­fra­struc­ture in a big way and tran­si­tion to hy­dro power ap­pears im­prac­ti­ca­ble in the short term. It is sug­gested that the fuel used to pro­duce ther­mal power should be changed from oil and gas to coal. In this con­text, it is also sug­gested that for such a tran­si­tion, the coun­try should not de­pend on Thar coal and should im­port clean coal which would cost much less than oil and gas and would be based on more sta­ble prices than the prices of oil and gas in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket. Fu­ture de­pen­dence on Thar coal needs to be dras­ti­cally re­duced as it is de­scribed as highly un­sta­ble, dif­fi­cult to trans­port and its gasi­fi­ca­tion is not free of risks.

It is also rec­om­mended that the coun­try should start mov­ing to­wards a more bal­anced en­ergy mix, com­pris­ing wider use of hy­del power, and re­new­able en­ergy and also nu­clear power. It is sug­gested that stand­alone power projects should be in­stalled that are not de­pen­dent on the na­tional power grid and can func­tion in their re­spec­tive ar­eas with the help of so­lar and wind farms. There is also a sug­ges­tion that the na­tional grid be dis­man­tled and electricity sup­ply be placed in an open mar­ket from where pro­vin­cial grids can buy en­ergy di­rectly. This would serve to im­prove power sup­ply and would be more fi­nan­cially ben­e­fi­cial both for pro­duc­ers and users.

In the wors­en­ing sce­nario, it is high time that in­stead of tread­ing the beaten path, more out-of-the-box strate­gies are ex­plored to tackle the fast de­te­ri­o­rat­ing na­tional en­ergy cri­sis.

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