Pakistan’s energy crisis: short and long-term solutions

By M. Sharif

Pakistan is in the grip of a serious energy crisis that is affecting all sectors of the economy and the various segments of the society. As the situation stands to-day, there are hardly any immediate solutions to resolve the issue. A change of attitude and a change of life style is needed at the national level which should be triggered by the ruling elite and followed by all segments of the society that have access to electricity.At best there could be some short and long-term solutions to the crisis but they need immediate planning and execution with an enormous investment. None of the previous rulers of the country solved the issue due to which the energy crisis kept on increasing regularly.

State of energy resources

Pakistan has a deficit of fossils or hydrocarbons sources of energy and to cover up the deficit, it depends upon importing crude oil at an enormous cost from its meager forex reserves. The need of crude oil is on an increase because of an improved life style which has necessitated the use of vehicles and cars for transportation. Import of oil at around $110 per barrel, increases the trade deficit and the current account deficit. It makes fiscal management a difficult task which affects the government as well as the people.

Contrary to the deficit of fossils or hydrocarbon resources, Pakistan is rich in hydro resources of energy. According to an estimate the country has enough resources to generate approximately 40000 mw of hydro-electricity. However, presently it only generates 8000 mw of electricity against an installed capacity of 11327 mw. In addition the country can generate electricity with the help of wind and solar energy which has not yet been exploited to meet the energy deficit. Nuclear energy is yet another source of energy and at present PAEC produces 472 mw. It is far less than what PAEC should have been producing to meet the energy deficit.

Three major electricity generation agencies presently operate in the country. They have a total installed capacity of around 19522 mw. Their installed capacities are as follows: WAPADA: 11327 mw; KESC: 1756 mw and Independent Power Producers (IPPs), 5977 mw. PAEC produces 472 mw as stated earlier. Thermal power accounts for 64 per cent of the total installed capacity, hydro-electricity accounts for 33 per cent and nuclear power plants account for 3 per cent. Thermal power is mostly produced by burning either natural gas or imported oil. The country is yet to switch over to coal from the indigenous source of energy that is estimated to be the third largest in the world with a reserve of 33.0 trillion tons.

The Energy market has been changing according to the demands of power consumption. The Prices of energy raw materials also kept changing. According to an analysis, in the fiscal year 1990-91 hydropower accounted for 45 per cent of all electricity produced in the country but it was reduced to 26 per cent with a 10-year period. The share of thermally generated electricity increased from 54 per cent to 71 per cent during the same period. Needs of most of the commercially used oil are met by imports whose prices have skyrocketed during past five years and as such the cost of power generation through oil has increased.

Power consumption because of increasing needs of industry, agriculture and households has been on the rise. According to an estimate, between the period of 1990 and 2003 the total consumption increased by 84 per cent, from 31twh to 57twh. Presently, an annual average increase of 7 per cent has been postulated. The energy sector, in which the government has a greater role to play, will have to work hard to make up for the existing deficit and to meet the growing demand.

The reason behind the crisis

An important question in the midst of ongoing power shortage crisis, being raised is that why the energy crisis looms on our head after an interval of around 10-15 years despite the fact that statistics about energy resources, demand and consumption are well articulated. They are also readily available to planning commission and other federal and provincial governments. The answer is simple; poor management, lopsided priorities and lack of accountability on part of those who stay at the helm of affairs.

In the early 90s, the power crisis had started emerging and the political government that was mandated to govern the country was faced with the issue of power crisis. The government had to resolve the crisis by engaging almost 19 Independent Power Producers (IPP). 19 IPP projects were initiated with an installed capacity of 3158 mw and investment of $4.0 billion and by March 2003 the installed capacity was at 2728 mw that has reached to 5977 mw through expansion. Till 2005, supply of electricity produced through different power generating units was surplus to demand by around 450 mw but since then demand has been outstripping supply because there was practically no additional power generation.

The government did not anticipate that there would be an increase in demand of electricity and it was its responsibility to arrange the supply according to the demand. Consequently, during summer, 2007, supply of electricity ran short of 2500 mw. It is being anticipated that this year the deficit between supply and demand could be as high as 3000 mw. By the end of year 2010, the deficit could be as large as 5500 mw. There are no immediate solutions to generating additional power through any source because a unit takes at least 2-3years to establish properly. More than 5 years is required to construct a hydroelectric dam and the investment is enormous. This crisis has literally paralysed the construction industry, badly affected agriculture and made life hell for the citizens. In view of existing ground realities and constraints to address power crisis by generating electricity within a short span of a few months, the need to make the best use of existing power generation by taking conservation measures at individual, community and national level are essential. These measures if implemented with commitment and honesty of purpose can help a lot of people to over come negative implications of power crisis.

Energy conservation measures

Energy conservation or efficient use of electricity is what is needed at this crucial time. There are three major users of electricity and they need to be educated and motivated to play their role in energy conservation. The three stakeholders are: industrial sector, transport sector and domestic/household sector. Each sector needs to be dealt separately to high light the efficacy of conserving energy.

The Industrial sector is consuming the largest amount of energy in the country. It consumes around 45 per cent of the total commercial energy. Most of them are concentrated in a few industrial areas close to or within large cities such as Karachi, Lahore and other comparatively smaller cities. Industrial units are not energy efficient and management practices also need improvement to make efficient use of electricity. A study carried out by the ENERCON reveals that efficient use of electricity by the industrial sector could save up to 23 per cent of electricity. The focus on energy conservation is on the improvement of steam distribution systems, air conditioning, refrigeration and modernising and revamping energy efficient combustion processes and controls.

The transport sector is the second largest consumer of energy. According to an ENERCON study, this sector consumes 28 per cent of total national consumption of energy. This could be reduced by 10 per cent if car owners alone were to economise on consumption of fuel and kept their car engines fully tuned up. The sector has the potential to be 20 per cent energy-efficient if railways, shipping and aviation are included. One of the visible constraints that keeps the industrial and transport sector away from being energy-efficient is the lack of observing energy conservation rules and regulations which are already laid down by the government. Their focus is perhaps on short-term gains that run contrary to national interest.

The third largest consumer of electricity is domestic/household sector that consumes around 21 per cent of electricity produced in the country. According to a study this sector could be efficient by 30 per cent by avoiding wasteful habits of consuming energy such as keeping markets fully lit etc. A positive development that has so far taken place in this sector is gradual shifting over to use of energy savers. Similarly energy could be saved by minimum use of air conditioners. The entire household should be well-aware of energy consumption.

To achieve meaningful results about conservation of energy the charity should start from home, that is, the ruling elite should take the initiative and set example to conserve energy as a national imperative for emulation by other segments of the society. If conservation measures stated above were to be implemented partially, it would go a long way in addressing the energy crisis immediately without any additional cost.

Measures by the government

The outgoing government had belatedly addressed the power crisis by hyping up the construction of mega hydro-electric dams including politically controversial Kalabagh dam without going into details about their feasibility and sources of investment. The new government has a real big challenge of addressing the energy crisis at hand. Its first priority should be to implement immediate measures that might bring some relief to the public. It should also immediately embark upon the programmme of expansion of generating capacities that has been laid down by the previous government under “Vision 2025” programme.

It envisions increasing existing power generating capacity by 10000 mw by 2010 and around 35000 mw by 2025 at an enormous cost of $35 billion to be shared by the government and private sector. The share of different sources of energy is stipulated to be as follows: hydro-electricity: 22563 mw, new gas fired plants: 4680 mw, coal fired plants: 4350 mw, nuclear plants: 1800 mw and finally 1500 mw from renewable energy resources. It is certainly an ambitious plan that needs to be implemented on priority basis with changes that the new government might like to make within its national policy framework.


It hardly needs to be emphasised that electricity is the lifeline of national economy and the people at large. The Economy and public life practically come to a halt because of the load shedding. The existing crisis can be addressed by the government by taking prompt measures. There is hardly any room for neglect or delay.

Courtesy: The News, 3/4/2008

10 thoughts on “Pakistan’s energy crisis: short and long-term solutions”

  1. well – energy savers should be implemented all over Pakistan in markets – offices – houses
    next thing i am considering is (any electrician/electronic technician/engineer can answer)
    if its possible convert 240 to 110 for house appliances – any adapter like device may help
    with the same type of converter devices -gradually we can move towards 110
    in appliances -its just a thought ,i dont know its practical or not


  3. Dear Mr Sharif,

    salam, is it possible you could email me as I would like to learn more about the energy crisis in pakistan and its viable solutions.

    Thank you


  4. Pakistan is in the midst of a terrible war with no end in sight.Its economic priorities should thus be re-prioritized. In the context of energy, the Government must take measures to suspend gas supplies to the household sector and to CNG stations across the country and without exceptions (including the Presidency and PM/CM Sectts. etc,) and divert all gas to the industry and save 5 million employment, reduce deficit on the balance of trade, and keep the wheels of industry moving. Its strategically important.

    Badr Hashemi

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