By Muhammad Bashir Chaudhry
The government has approved new projects to add 2200 mw to the existing energy system by April 2009 in order to reduce load shedding.
Other relief measures effective June 1, 2008 include: moving forward of clocks by one hour (GMT +6); closing of shops and markets by 9 pm; encouraging markets by changing weekly holidays from Sunday to Friday; suggesting industrial clusters to stagger weekly holidays; keeping billboards and neon signs disconnected; and switching off air-conditioners in government offices between 8 to 11 am.
And the power shortages are attributed mainly to factors such as low water in dams; overall low generation capacity; faults in generation plants/transmission or distribution systems; and inefficiencies in operation of power systems.
The main reasons for low installed generation capacity are the lack of sufficient financial resources and poor governance. Because of poor governance, inter-department and / or inter-provincial rivalries adversely affect planning and implementation of energy projects, development of appropriate policies or attainment of an ideal energy-mix.
Pakistan has not been able to fully exploit its enormous hydro potential, which could be enhanced by putting up additional generation projects at different locations where appropriate head was available on the same river or water stream. Ghazi Bhrotha is one such project set up down-stream Tarbela. Another similar plant is expected to come up down-stream Mangla shortly.
There is a long list of amendments to Power Policy 2002. The changes are listed separately and show that the old policy has lost much of its relevance. As the democratic government has taken over recently, it is hoped Power Policy 2008 will be issued incorporating the amendments made in the old policy and the measures for sustained developments of energy and power generation projects.
The new policy may not have much impact unless inefficiencies/wastage in the energy framework are tackled first through policy measures and good governance. It is feared that the prices ultimately charged from the customers are padded up at each stage due to inefficiencies/wastages which need to be minimised if not eliminated fully. There is need to neutralise the companies that take unfair advantages in the purchase, transport, processing, marketing or supply of energy products, in the form of deemed duty or bank charges, etc. Inefficiencies creep in the following four stages increasing unfairly the price per unit of energy:
* Bulk of the crude oil is imported. Its purchase and its transport to Karachi ports and then to refineries need to be investigated. Local crude is transported directly to oil refinery or in some cases crude is exported. The process has to be efficient.
* Are our refineries capable of extracting standard quantities of final products? What are the energy efficiencies of different sections of each refinery and how the results compare with the energy efficiencies of modern refineries? How the ex-refinery prices are determined for different products and the commission allowed to oil marketing companies ? Transparency in these matters should improve efficiency.
* Most of our thermal power plants are based on fuel oil produced locally and imported in large quantities. Import of fuel oil, its transportation to Karachi ports and then to power plants may involve inefficiencies which get reflected in the fuel oil price charged from the utilities.
Same is the case for supply of gas to the gas-based power plants. There may be inefficiencies in operation of power plants which are mostly old and not well-maintained. There are higher line losses and power thefts. These inefficiencies raise the customers’ electricity tariff.
* In order to reduce import bill, the government had allowed use of natural gas for power generation. Some of these plants are only simple cycle and cause waste of heat and energy. Even the combined cycle power plants may not achieve the electricity generation efficiencies found in the developed countries.
Power shortage is not the problem; rather it is only a symptom of bigger problems. The solution lies in adopting the ‘good governance’. Committed men are needed to manage energy and related areas. Without capacity building and dedicated teams of professionals in every field, shortages of power may not be overcome.
The country does not have the capacity to raise enough of foreign financial resources for meeting all our energy needs, adding additional power generation capacity. The money allocated for import of oil or setting up of power generation/ infrastructure projects has to be spent wisely.
The Long Term Credit Fund (earlier known as the Private Sector Energy Development Fund), administered by the National Bank of Pakistan may be upgraded into an energy and infrastructure bank, possibly on the pattern of India’s Infrastructure Development Finance Company Limited.
There has been a serious lack of research and development (R&D) in mastering new technologies and adopting more efficient fabrication techniques. We are obliged to import most of the energy processing plants but suffer from foreign exchange resource constraints.
The country should go for renewable energy sources such as wind power, solar thermal power, small hydro plants, thermal power plants using rice husk, waste wood, solid waste or agriculture residue as fuel. Use of more adapted technologies, increase in agriculture produce and growing of more forests would help ease the pressure on imported fuels. Introduction of affordable solar water heaters and cookers can free large quantity of gas for other important uses.
The government may devise policy framework to enable the utilities to buy electricity from small captive power producers.
Source: Daily Dawn, 9/6/2008