ISLAMABAD, April 29: The government is set to introduce this week drastic measures for energy conservation, including closure of commercial activities after sunset and possibly two weekly public holidays, to overcome the energy crisis in the country.

This is part of a larger “demand management plan” which will be announced on Monday in Karachi by Minister for Water and Power Liaquat Ali Jatoi and come into force the following day for about four months, subject to approval by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

A senior official told Dawn on Sunday that the prime minister had gone through the plan before leaving for the country’s commercial and industrial capital where he would hold two meetings – one on the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation situation and the other on energy demand management.

“Demand management is inevitable now because of a wide gap in energy demand and supply,” the official said, adding: “Demand management is better than loadshedding because it allows people to adjust accordingly, instead of living in uncertainty.”

He said industrial concerns would be required to stagger their weekly holidays on Fridays and Saturdays. This would enable power utilities to supply similar quantities on most days of the week, instead of the lean day on Sunday, he said.

An official close to the secretary for water and power said the ministry had also proposed two weekly holidays – Saturday and Sundays – in the public sector. This will not only be an energy-saving measure but also an alternative for business and commercial concerns against their loss arising out of business closure after sunset. All markets and commercial centres would close at 8pm.

There will be no power supply to wedding halls after 10pm and they will have to arrange their own generators if they desired to prolong their functions. Likewise, public street-lightening will be cut by 50 per cent to save another 25MW of electricity every day.

Various programmes and advertisements will be run on the print and electronic media to persuade the general public to save energy. The government hopes that the measures will effectively bridge the gap between demand and supply and there will be only limited scope for loadshedding.

With a demand of about 16,000MW, Pakistan currently faces a shortfall of about 1,000MW, which is partially offset by excessive release of water from two reservoirs without provincial demands for irrigation. Luckily, hydrological conditions are better this year and, according to an estimate, water availability has been at its highest in 12 years. The power shortage, however, has been estimated to reach 2,500MW in June-July.

The demand and conservation plan has been prepared in consultation with power utilities, National Electric Power Regulatory Authority, National Energy Conservation Centre (Enercon) and other stakeholders. The Alternate Energy Development Board and Enercon are also separately working on another plan to encourage use of energy-saving devices through different kinds of subsidies.

The government has not been able to plan for the future despite repeated warnings from Nepra and Wapda and failed to firm up enough power generation capacity as the demand continued to increase and the pace of unplanned village electrification was pushed up on political considerations. Installation of two old and rented power stations of about 300MW is the only capacity addition that has taken place in seven years.

Last year, loadshedding was restricted to two-three hours daily in rural areas and between half and one hour daily in most of major cities. The shortage this year has gone up significantly.

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