Dec 232008

Ali Hammad Raza

While attending the energy delta convention 2008 held in the Netherlands, I listened to the brightest minds from around the world share their vision on energy. European energy analysts were engaged in drafting joint targets for the future. They also reported their failures and successes based on the goals set forth in previous conventions. All of these proceedings reminded me more and more of my beloved country’s lack of policy on energy issues.

Europe’s initiatives will liberate it from chains to foreign energy resources in the times to come. Americans are already moving down the same lane though slightly lagging behind Europe. The first well-built American policy chalking plans for research into alternate energy sources came in the middle of the 70s when Saudi Arabia threatened with the first oil crunch. Since then Americans have been keenly diversifying their energy resources and saving their own as reserves. Nonetheless, America’s seriousness towards finding sustainable alternate energy sources can be felt by the appointment of Dr Stephen Chu, a Nobel laureate to the post of energy secretary.

On the other hand, Russian gas giant ‘Gazprom’ is working hard to gain even greater access to the European market. It already serves around 30 per cent of Europe’s energy demand. The company has hired influential European politicians like Gerhard Schroder and Jacques Chirac. Their lobbying efforts have been met with resistance since Europeans have always taken their dependence on Russia or even Middle East as an uneasy and an untrue alliance.

In contrast, Pakistan’s energy policy is neither an item of discussion in the media nor general public. The subject of energy is dealt by ministry for petroleum and the ministry for water and power (W&P) development. The ministry is more focused on issues currently at hand rather than highlighting plans for the future. Electrical aspect is only one part of the energy policy but due to the obvious supply shortage it has overshadowed other more important issues like our dependence on foreign fuel which could have caused a total meltdown of Pakistani economy if the fuel prices had continued rising.

Undoubtedly the Pakistani power crisis is a nightmare. However, it can also be taken as an opportunity to adapt ‘Decentralized Power Systems'(DPS), a system through which every single house could become a little power station by connecting to national grid and providing electricity. Obviously this means that the provider will be paid. This would eliminate Pakistan’s power problems. Developed nations are speedily moving towards creating a strong decentralized power network whereby the old system of huge power plants acting as the sole providers of electricity to normal households will become obsolete. The west has weighed its pros against cons and almost all European countries as well as America/Canada have implemented policies supporting this mechanism in their national grids.

Most EU countries have policies in place encouraging electricity produced by cow manure, wind mills, concentrated solar power, solar cells, gas generators, etc. The scale of these power producing devices can range from a small generator for a shop/house to anything large. If a policy of this nature were to be implemented in Pakistan it would drastically reduce the load shedding and government’s burden of making costly large scale power plants.

With a successful decentralized power supply mechanism in place, the power industry in Pakistan can flourish. The power supply shortages make it easier for Pakistan to implement the DPS policy as compared to countries which are currently self-sufficient in the production of electricity or are producing more than their requirement. Our country currently contains the right ingredients to start a semi mechanical /electrical revolution but it lacks proper policies (not funds) paving the way for such an endeavour.

A proper implementation of the ‘DPS policy’ would lead to new entrepreneurships, jobs and technological achievements, I as a Pakistani would prefer this over several billions of dollars in foreign investment! From a strategic point of view it is a win-win situation. All it would take is the right Government policy at the national grid level and an awareness campaign meant to educate people about the energy sector.

Pakistan should benefit from the research carried out in developed nations and swiftly come at par with the level of research for technologies which we can harness. DPS is one of the latter. Universities, companies, engineers, scientists and even politicians of Europe are chanting “Decentralized is the future”, we as Pakistanis should embrace this as an opportunity before it is too late.

The writer is an engineering student in the Netherlands. Email: alihammad


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