LAHORE: While welcoming the steps the governm­ent announced on Wed­n­es­day to conserve energy, exp­erts, however, think they are not enough and will only lessen the severity of the crisis, not solve it.

They insist the country has perpetually suffered from an energy crisis and has vast experience of dealing with it. “It is time to dust off all those suggestions, implement them, ensure their execution to the minutest detail to take the country out of the current energy mess,” they insist.

To begin with, “shops should pull their shutters down before sunset, not after it as being suggested right now. Why face even one-hour peak demand when it can be avoided”, wonders Tahir Basharat Cheema, former managing director of the now-defunct Pakistan Electric Power Company.

It gives people a chance to get back from work and leave home for shopping; this chance should be taken away. The energy conservation measures must assume a Covid crisis-like proportion, where nothing else should matter, but saving energy. Even with the suggested deadline, the government should make sure all commercial feeders are switched off at 8pm sharp, without exception, Mr Cheema advises.

During the last decade, when the energy crisis spun out of hand, “we took a number of steps like disallowing air conditioners between 8am and 11am, and it was ensured very meticulously”, points out a former chief of the Lahore Electric Supply Company. The company then observed a 30-50-megawatt dip in the national demand during those three hours. The figure could be much higher now as the last 10 years have seen a multiplication of air-conditioning. It should be done without exception, he suggests.

“Yet another measure, which is almost a must, is shifting the single-shift industry to a 10pm to 6am shift,” says Shabbir Ahmed, a former general manager of the National Transmission and Despatch Company. This could free 300-500MW for 16 hours every day, and shifts the load to relatively easy hours. In addition, streetlights, which are more elaborate now given the law and order situation — people even privately installing bulbs to keep them running, should only be allowed alternately. Alternate light arrangements could save up to 150MW at night and help solve the crisis, he suggests.

What else is imperative is ending exemption to feeders, points out Tahir Cheema, insisting that purely defence-related feeders and hospitals should be exempted, adding all others must face loadshedding like the rest of the country. It could provide a make-or-break relief of anything like 2,500-3,000MW. These exemptions were allowed on very generous terms by successive governments. “Time to stop them and do so as strictly as possible,” he asserts.

Similarly, agricultural tubewells could also be regulated with minimum effort, as an overwhelming majority of them fell on dedicated feeders throughout the country. They should only be allowed during a particular time of the day, when supply is relatively easy.

“One can see that the cumulative impact of these steps would be big enough to wipe out the over 6,000MW shortfall the country is facing. All these steps were taken in the past to harvest huge benefits; these measures and their benefits are part of the official record. The government should take these steps instead of cosmetic measures, which are least expected given the severity of the crisis,” Cheema remarks.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2022

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