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Energy policy: role for provinces

July 06, 2013

THIS is apropos media reports regarding preparation of a new energy policy by the incumbent government. The policy will be finalised after consultation with provincial governments.

Pakistan has been blessed with vast energy resources which have not been properly exploited. It is good that the government is working on preparation of a new energy policy. The job is not easy. The following roadmap is suggested:

Provincial governments have very important role in energy mattes and, therefore, should be associated with the energy policy from the very beginning. The principles, on which the policy would be formulated, should be agreed first. The principles should cover areas such as electricity fuel mix, use of gas for generating electricity, priorities of hydro-power and renewables, affordable tariff of electricity and gas, rationale of national transmission grid, revision in the existing energy policies, accelerating local exploration for gas and oil, import of electricity and gas, financing of energy infrastructure, energy conservation, etc.

These principles should be released to the public for views.

Energy is a vast field. Proper detailed policies are needed for each sub-sector such as power generation, gas and oil exploration, fair tariff determination, exploring reasons for theft of electricity and gas and bringing institutional improvements to discourage such deplorable practices, as passing of more laws will not fully help.

Existing policies on various sub-sectors should be reviewed in the light of agreed principles. Energy measuring and energy trade practices need major scrutiny and overhaul.

Meters are important. The government has to ensure that at every stage meter reading is correct. The end-consumers have to be protected. Proper energy trade is the key to keeping tariffs within affordable limits.

Like other services, energy service has to be introduced by the government. Officials at various levels should be engaged while specialisation in various disciplines be developed professionally. Legal, finance, accounting, administration, etc., are all important.

Lack of international-level expertise in various matters may cost the nation enormously. We should remember that inefficiency, a lapse or an error has an economic cost and is eventually reflected in the rise in consumer tariff.


Solar panels

THIS refers to the letter ‘Tapping solar energy’ (June 15) by Saleem Ahmed.

Despite all the hype about utilising energy in Pakistan, there is very little impact of the same on our nation except for off-grid areas.

People are suffering from loadshedding for up to 18 hours, but fail to take advantage of solar energy in urban areas because of huge capital investment (Rs2 million for a medium-sized house), no subsidy from the government and limited life -- three to five years -- of batteries and solar cells.

Even if the household is paying Rs200,000 in electricity bills a year, the investment will not be recovered within the life of the equipment unless subsidised by the government.

If there is any government department or NGO promoting solar technology and offering a package which is more economical than electricity from the national grid, they should advertise so that more people can take advantage of it. This will also reduce the shortage and cost of electricity from the grid as most oil-fired generation units will become redundant.

ASIF JAH Karachi