Dawn News

Easing controls over power sector

THE worst-ever energy crisis has exposed the credibility of the government machinery and bad governance. All service providers — departments/authorities from railways to air transport and power to gas distribution companies — have failed to deliver.

While all these failures are adding to the misery of the common man, the mother of all evils is the energy sector’s mismanagement. If Pakistan could manage to produce 25,000MW of electricity, it could effectively address the power crisis. There is huge potential of renewable energy, particularly windmills and solar energy which can be tapped through appropriate strategies. The government has to relax its control over the monopolised power sector.

The Japanese government donated a solar power plant to electrify Pakistan Secretariat buildings in Islamabad but the authority decided that the solar power first should go to grid system of Islamabad Electric Supply Company and not directly to the Secretariat. Definitely, there are power losses of 10-15 per cent in transmitting solar power to the national grid and back to the Secretariat. This is how controls impact on efficiency.

In fiscal year 2011-12, the total power generation was put at only 12,755MW against a huge demand of 18,860MW, creating a shortfall of 6000MW. Despite hectic efforts of the distribution companies, the line losses and power thefts are growing.

During a recent presentation given by the water and power ministry to the members of the Parliament, it was revealed that there are excess billings mainly to meet these losses. The power distribution authorities have left no stone unturned to transfer transmission, distribution, and theft losses to honest consumers but still this questionable effort could not bail out the dilapidated power sector.

Pakistan has a 150,000MW electricity potential in wind and solar electricity generation. Only a single air corridor in lower Sindh has 40,000 MW wind power potential from Karachi to Badin that spreads about 300 km. The sea side areas of Sindh generate very good quality of wind speed that is between 7.5 and 7.7 meters per second, making it number one wind speed quality, as against 6.2 and 6.9 m/s in rest of the world. Only few places come under the good category of wind speed with seven and 7.3 m/s.

Some well-known economists are of the opinion that the ongoing electricity crisis is mainly due to vested interest of powerful oil lobbies, unwarranted attitude of workers union, inefficient management, and the transporters mafia. They further allege that there is a strong parallel economy mainly being run by the bosses of oil business of about Rs600 billion. Oil businesses are mainly carried by the cronies and oil lobbies without any check and balance. How can they allow generation of more electricity from other alternative sources, like coal, wind, solar or hydro. They are deadly against present energy mix system. These economists are of the view that the same lobbies are successfully raising the controversies about Kalabagh dam project.

They are also creating hurdles in the generation of electricity from Thar coal, despite severe countrywide shortages of electricity while the share of expensive oil in electricity generation has been increasing. According to the Economic Survey, the share of fuel in power generation has risen by 35.1 per cent in 2011-12.

Wapda did not seize the option of cheap coal- based electricity generation offered by a Chinese Company(M/S Shenhua) at Thar coalfield at the rate of 5.6 cents per Kwh during the Mushraff regime. At that time imported oil-based electricity was produced at 11 cents per Kwh. Wapda’s failure was in fact a policy failure whose cost is still being paid by poor consumers in the shape of high tariffs on fuel based power. The more worrying is the fact is that the wrong decision made by the previous regime is not being reversed by the present government; rather it is being promoted more vigorously.

To provide visible relief to poor consumers, the government should ease the undesirable controls over electricity generation and distribution as in the case of telecom sector.

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