Before the 2013 general elections, energy shortages and loadshedding were among the top most challenges facing the country, and the major political parties — PML-N, PPP and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) — laid out steps in their manifestos to overcome them as a top priority besides reforming the governance structure of the sector.

Five years down the road when they return to the electorate, addressing electricity shortage is no more an issue for PML-N and PTI even though it still remains a challenge in the eyes of the PPP. Even though the urgency has lessened, reforming the sector remains among the top priorities of all parties.

All the three major parties, nevertheless, appear to be feeling the need to improve the fuel mix and reduce tariffs even though they have different lines of action. They also equally want to transform state owned power companies — generation companies to distribution companies — as a means of improving the energy sector and addressing the chronic circular debt problem.

Perhaps because of its hands-on experience, the PML-N has a far better, more comprehensive roadmap for the power sector on paper, including initiatives it miserably failed to implement in the last five years, privatisation being the most important.

Five years down the road when they return to the electorate, addressing electricity shortage is no more an issue for the PML-N and PTI even though it still remains a challenge in the eyes of the PPP

Followed by this is the PPP that also has a comprehensive plan for the power sector including many tall promises it could not deliver on in its five year 2008-13 term — providing electricity to every citizen at an affordable cost and materialising the Iran- Pakistan gas pipeline.

PTI trails behind with a significant lag both in quality of objectives and preparedness. It has not yet spoken in detail about the power sector and is currently in the learning process through various standing committees of the senate. Its three prominent senators Nauman Wazir, Shibli Faraz and Mohsin Aziz have developed a 360 degree-view of the entire power and energy sector owing to their leading different standing committees.

It plans to begin with Imran Khan’s 100-day plan if voted to power and then come up with a detailed policy direction and implementation plan. Individually Senator Nauman Wazir is convinced the smallest possible transformers must be introduced and feeders should be leased out on a revenue sharing basis for billing, recovery and power supply, starting with the most inefficient Peshawar Electric Supply Company.

The party, without explaining how it planned to go about doing so, wants to start reforms on an emergency basis in Gencos and Discos and begin work urgently to shift towards sustainable and affordable energy.

It also loftily talks about addressing the root causes of circular debt and initiate regulatory reforms designed to move away from rent seeking models and towards increasing system efficiency and recovery of losses.

In its next term (2018-23), PML-N aims to transition Pakistan from sufficiency to breakthrough efficiency, affordability and sustainability. It promises to introduce IT based monitoring and evaluation systems to provide operational and financial information of power companies on a real time basis and pursue privatisation of Discos.

All the three major parties, nevertheless, appear to be feeling the need to improve the fuel mix and reduce tariffs even though they have different lines of action. They also equally want to transform state-owned power companies as a means of improving the energy sector and addressing the chronic circular debt problem

It also promises universal access to power through innovative on-grid and off-grid solar and cluster based mini-grid solutions by ensuring targeted subsidies and concessional agricultural tariff.

“The cost of electricity would be dramatically decreased through retiring and replacing inefficient plants, reverse tariff biding, smart metering, and developing accountability in an open access and competitive market place,” the PMLN promises for the next five years.

While the PML-N has been imposing surcharges to block declining electricity rates to shift funds to cover losses and theft, it now promises to ensure reduced costs to consumers and to rationalise tariff.

It plans to add another 15,000 megawatts by 2025, including 5,000-7,000MW through Thar coal and hydroelectricity to be able to reduce tariffs by creating a comprehensive plan for water storage and run of the river hydropower generation.

The PPP also wants to provide electricity to all as a basic need irrespective of urban-rural settlement. It has a four-pronged strategy to address the energy requirements of a growing population and economy “on a sustainable basis, by providing adequate, affordable and progressively cleaner energy to all.”

For this, it promises to fully utilise all domestic resources of energy, including Thar coal, natural gas and hydropower, and ensure maximum exploitation of Sindh’s rich wind corridor for at least 12 hours a day to move away from imported fuels.

“By 2023 wind and solar parks in Sindh will add at least 5,000 MWs to the national grid,” the PPP promised in its manifesto and pledged to ensure the Bhasha Dam project, which has remained stalled so far, is taken to quick completion along with resuming work on the Pak-Iran pipeline. It also promises to increase the share of renewable energy in the energy mix to 5pc in five years.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, July 9th, 2018

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