Apr 172008

Rizwan Ghani

Under 45 degree Celsius the brutal handling of protestors representing half a million workers- whose majority works on daily wages- and their families struggling to survive due to closure of some 35,000 power looms, begs serious answers, accountability and immediate remedial measures. The energy minister’s statement shows continuation of flawed policies. The illogical sermon of three years gestation period, saving of 600 MW through conservation and free distribution of millions of energy savers with tax money is another fraud with the people of Pakistan. It is hoped not a single penny will be released from national exchequer for free distribution of energy savers and the direction of energy policy will be changed to uphold public demands. It is hoped that PM will look into the matter to approve polices that offer immediate, sustainable and cost effective environment friendly way forward.

In terms of possible options including generating energy from alternate resources including wind, solar, nuclear and working model of saving 45 percent line losses have been discussed in detail in my articles 2.12 cents p/kwh (10/2/2008), politics of economics and nuclear technology (20/1/2008) and energy crisis and corruption nexus (7/1/2008). It is not rocket science to install required number of windmills/ solar panels/photovoltaic panels in different parts of the country to provide relief public braving weather and unending energy shortages. The country’s domestic sector only consumes 10-13 % of total energy production.

The proposed private model of National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) [www.nreca.org] can be used in public sector to provide relief to country’s domestic, agri-sector and allied 70 % population. The adoption of alternate energy will reduce energy prices because of elimination of line losses, transportation and fuel import costs. It will help relieve pressure on industrial and manufacturing sector. Since this model challenges the monopoly of energy cartel, undercuts corruption and allows revenues from indigenous energy production at divisional/district/tehsil levels therefore policy makers are least interested in this model. Will provincial govts. part with Islamabad to adopt alternate energy options to provide relief at grassroots, only time will tell?

In addition to proposed steps for energy generation, the planners need to work on war footing to introduce mass transit train and tram schemes at divisional level to reduce foreign exchange expenditure on communication related fuel imports. It will allow its utility in manufacturing and agri-sector to support and sustain mechanization and improve value added production in dairy, seafood, fruit and vegetable packaging etc.

Similarly, in wake of reports 140 billion rupee ( 85 billion plus 55) loss incurred to national exchequer by Wapda since July 2006 it is time to take two steps: 1) Hold those responsible for the mega losses to book. 2) Nationalize the energy sector on lines of China, Russia, UK, Venezuela, Brazil, Gulf States, CARS and most Latin American states. Russia has successfully used energy sector to get rid of its national debt, generate additional one trillion dollars national foreign reserve and use energy to protect its geo-strategic and foreign policy reserves. The success of Russian energy giant Gazprom in Europe is breath taking. Gazproms planned ME coupling with Europe through ME through Gulf’s Look East policy supported by all powerful members of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) holding one fifth of total proven global fossil fuel reserves shows that nationalized energy sector is the way forward for nations seeking energy independence, sovereign foreign policy and stronger economy.

The announcement of Bahrain based Gulf Finance House Caspian Energy Hub that will be located in Aktau, Kazakhstan to serve energy industry is another example of emerging energy shift (GHF plans energy hub in Kazakhstan, April 14 Arab News). On the hand reportedly the US private energy giants have posted 123 billion dollars profit for year 2007 (Congress grills oil companies on price hike, April 2, Arab News) as gasoline price hits three dollars and twenty-nine cents. The US private energy sector in violation of their contracts has failed to invest a single penny in terms of infrastructure development, improving refining capacity and improving reeking national energy distribution grid, leaving the average American tax payer to foot the bill for extreme criminal neglect in form of overheated overloaded electricity grids and rusted fuel distribution setups. In all probability any US energy/power failure will be blamed on terrorists to cover the trail of corruption as average American buys finished fuel products instead of processing crude for want of refining capacity that is available for half the price of existing barrel of oil. Interestingly, like their American counterpart average Pakistani is wading through similar challenges. The looting and plundering of people of Karachi at the hands of a private energy company is case in point. The fact of the matter is Gulf states have reduced energy prices. Malaysia has frozen energy rates till 2009. Pakistan produces 40 percent of total energy locally but Islamabad has failed to provide relief to its people may it be gas, or fuel. It is widely believed that instead of doling out (15) billion every month in subsidy to private energy sector Islamabad instead can easily manage the energy shortfall, reduce oil/gas prices fifty percent and provide relief at grassroots and sustain economic growth by adopting mass transit schemes and incorporating alternate energy, fuel imports from Iran and enhancing refining capacity. The problem however lies with decision making not energy options. Islamabad therefore has to choose between serving interests of people of Pakistan or global energy cartels. It is not that simple. Reportedly, US Congress refused to extend/grant funds for country’s alternate energy sector for 2007. It is an open secret in US that despite regular legislation since mid 19th century (refer liberalism) the American public has failed to end energy cartels influence on lawmakers to form public friendly energy policies. In all probability US Congress’ latest failure to release funds for alternate energy and energy related Iraq war are dark manifestations of US energy policies. Interestingly, current Pakistan’s energy policy makers’ insteps with the outgoing planners have maintained silence on alternate energy. Ironically, the fossil fuel exporters including Gulf States, advanced world supporting greener earth are shifting to alternate energy. UAE and Egypt have signed deals for generating energy from nuclear power. Globally forty other countries are heading for alternate energy. If Islamabad is unwilling to accept energy riots, the power company employee firing at the protesting public should not be tolerated either. It will not resolve energy shortage that is rendering more and more people joblessness countrywide including half a million-power loom workers in Multan. The nationalization of country’s energy sector is the only way to end criminal exploitation of the public. Islamabad by nationalizing domestic energy sector, incorporating alternate energy and making it accountable on lines of state owned Gazprom and Chinese energy setups to end current exploitative arrangements in which private energy sector in step with US energy cartel is fleecing public without providing energy, charging for un-rendered services and draining national exchequer in foreign currency. The high-energy costs in itself are undermining national economy and compromising national interests.

Finally, a single wind turbine can provide electricity for some 5000-7000 households. It is main grid ‘plug and play’ ready. Same is true for solar panels/photovoltaic panels or micro-wind turbines. Bangladesh is already providing subsidized solar panels to public for multiple reasons including energy shortage and control deforestation. It is therefore time concerned authorities adopt alternate energy on war footing to provide immediate relief, starting with domestic sector instead of wasting tax rupees on free energy savers. Similarly government parliament in step with Beijing should pass a law mandating use of energy savers in government sector which consumes more electricity than domestic sector and encourage public to buy energy savers. The real question however remains if concerned leadership is interested to amicably address the energy issue. It can only be answered by the concerned including PM.

Source: Pakistan Observer, 17/4/2008

 Posted by at 9:26 pm

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