How to combat energy shortages in Pakistan

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By Aurangzeb Soharwardi

Pakistan is experiencing a huge energy crisis, which has jeopardised its economic progress and social development. Substantial electricity demand and supply deficit, depleting gas and petroleum reserves and dipping down water table are major concerns. Particularly, the electricity dilemma has posed a serious threat and requires to be resolved immediately. Besides maximum possible electricity generation, all measures for energy conservation have to be adopted, and one of the most important measures is to ensure the construction of energy efficient buildings with retrofits, smart designs, evaporative cooling units, radiant floors, high efficiency refrigeration and natural light arrangements. The building sector has a large share in the world’s total energy consumption. According to the International Energy Agency (2005), 30-40 per cent of the worldwide energy is being used in buildings. Up to 90 per cent of the energy is utilised during the operational stage of buildings, for the purposes of heating, cooling, and lighting. Emissions related to buildings stem primarily from electricity and other energy used to light, cool, and heat our buildings. We have a number of initiatives to reduce these emissions, through smart use of building design and management. Efficiency should be worked into a building’s design and not added later. Increasing energy demand, global climate change, and constrained energy supplies are likely to impact how energy affects your business in the future. Is your company prepared for the energy challenges that lie ahead? The ground-breaking report, Energy Strategy for the Road Ahead, reveals what twenty leading U.S. companies recommend businesses should do now to prepare for the risks and opportunities of our energy’s future. According to the Fourth Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), building-related carbon dioxide emissions (including the use of electricity) could increase from 8.6 billion tons in 2004 to 11.4-15.6 billion tons in 2030. The demand for energy in the building sector is ever increasing, especially in the scenario of rapidly growing economies of the developing countries. In terms of international averages, 60 per     cent of residential energy is consumed for space heating or cooling, depending upon climatic zone. General guidelines about construction must be adjusted to the different climatic, economic and social conditions. Integrated building designs and the modification of building shapes, orientations and related attributes can also reduce energy demand, change energy-wasting behavior and improve operations and maintenance.


In Pakistan, the overall lifestyle and construction pattern is highly energy inefficient, without much of ventilation and requires a lot of cooling arrangements. Energy conservation in buildings and alternate sources of energy, at minimal possible cost offers multiple dividends in the ever mounting energy crisis scenario. Since the past two years, this daunting situation has worsened. Although per-capita electricity consumption is around 500-kilowatt hours per year, which is one-fifth of the global average of 2,500-kilowatt hours, six to 18 hours of outages during summer 2009 have been daunting, with very low generation.

The buildings, which are not designed to cater for the non availability of electricity, require continuous air conditioning because of rising temperatures due to global warming. The Building Energy Code of Pakistan, developed by The National Energy Conservation Centre in 1990 is now undergoing a review by the ministry of environment. It is expected that the implementation of energy codes would help control wastage and would save up to 20 to 30 per cent of the energy used in buildings, however, the building control instruments of various city development authorities, are eroded and ineffective by allowing numerous irregularities in construction design and architecture of the buildings. NESPAK had also revised the building codes for all major cities of Pakistan and had made a master plan for all major towns in the quake-hit areas that included housing, education and healthcare. Energy use in a building is a function of building services, the general design and the interaction of people with the building. PEPCO has the responsibility to supply electricity in Pakistan to over 18 million consumers, excluding Karachi.

Total electricity consumption has touched 18,000 MW in recent times due to increase in use of electrical appliances, particularly, the usage of air conditioners require additional 3,500 MW of electricity, which further widened the demand and supply gap. PEPCO is making all possible efforts for electricity generation and it has also launched a massive media campaign to educate consumers about imposing energy discipline and persuading them to conserve energy, through print display ads, public service messages, TVCs and other BTL techniques. Many modern technologies like, Structural Insulated Panels Insulated Concrete Foundations Geothermal heat pumps, Heat/Energy Recover Ventilation Systems, Radiant Floor Heating can be used to construct energy efficient buildings. Thermal Barrier Paint makes buildings energy-efficient, reduces energy costs, improves hot/cold insulation, certified CO2 emission reduction, fights global warming, Cost effective, easy to understand and user-friendly solutions like thermal insulation, solar shading and proper ventilation must be promoted and made available to people. Minimum use of glass in buildings must be advocated and enforced by the regulatory agencies.

The performance, comfort and energy use of most buildings is influenced by the climatic context and the way the building responds to and develops the local microclimate. Traditional building responses to particular climate types are explored, starting from the effectiveness of traditional vernacular design as a climate modifier.

The research on how building materials look, perform, last and interact with, and have an impact on the environment and the people who use and view the building, must be conducted. Methods which provide essential springboard for the design, specification, maintenance and demolition of buildings, must be devised. Efforts which explore a range of issues that relate to materials and sustainability, which include embodied energy, performance, waste and health must be invested.

A specialised in-depth assessment of glazing materials, shading and solar protection devices should be contemplated. Tools for designing complete glazing systems, calculation of thermal performance, energy rating and labeling is to be employed. Selection criteria in heating and cooling dominated climates are analysed. Solar thermal and photovoltaic design methods should also be developed.

The design of dwellings and public buildings such as schools, healthcare facilities or religious buildings that accommodate current requirements and respond to contextual, climatological and cultural factors is undertaken in an experiential and interactive mode. The concept of reconciling regional identity and tradition with contemporary needs in building design and performance, relating to the impact of technological change and social transformation arising from globalisation, climate change and other factors has to be focused. By using the green building designs and technologies, up to 70 per cent electrical energy could be saved and meet 90 per cent air-conditioning demand.

The government must enforce modified building laws to ensure energy efficiency through its regulatory bodies, particularly the city development authorities. No NOC should be issued by the concerned departments to such buildings which have a lower or no degree of energy efficiency. The construction companies and the contractors must learn and master latest techniques of construction and usage of energy efficient technologies to change the construction patterns in Pakistan and to ensure sustainable environmental management, along with less consumption of energy.

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