Power generation is one of the many problems faced by Pakistan since 1947. Economists consider it to be the biggest hurdle to economic growth. From the early 1990s to 2005, Pakistan experienced an extraordinary surplus of electricity supply.
However, the transition from surplus to shortage followed soon after. The year 2006-2007 marked the beginning of the energy crisis that Pakistan is facing today. The gap between the demand and supply kept on widening and in 2011, the country witnessed a record shortfall of 5,000MW.
Since Independence, Pakistan’s energy generation has never crossed 22,000MW. The reliance on hydropower with seasonal reductions and the dependence on imported fuel can be considered one of the many reasons for this shortage. However, the biggest problem that Pakistan is facing involves the criticism levelled by the opposition parties over power generation. Nobody has bothered to inquire about the facts. On the other hand, everyone is more than willing to bash the incumbent government for not producing enough electricity.
CPEC has the biggest chunk – worth more than $35 billion – allocated for energy projects. However, it is more important to gauge the amount of time it takes to generate electricity. Hydropower plant takes between five to 10 years before it starts generating electricity, while various forms of renewable energy take around two years. The most criticised coal-based power generation takes at least three years to generate electricity. Although the US has 33 percent of coal-based plants, fewer salvos are being fired on its government as compared to criticism levelled against the government in Pakistan.
How will Pakistan overcome its energy crisis and what efforts have the current government made? Nawaz Sharif has made energy generation his top priority since he assumed office. Energy projects under CPEC are closely monitored by federal minister Ahsan Iqbal while the minister for water and power is looking after the initiatives taken on energy by the Pakistan government.
PM Nawaz inaugurated the LNG-fuelled Bhikki Power Plant with the capacity of 1,180MW. At least 717MW were added to the national grid. Second in the pipeline is the Haveli Bahadur Shah Power Plant at Jhang. The project has a total capacity of 1,230MW and its first turbine will begin functioning in between May and June. Initially the project will produce 360MW of electricity followed by another 800MW by July. The Balloki Power Plant, with its environmentally-friendly 9-H gas turbine technology, is the third project in the pipeline to generate 1,223MW of electricity by January 2018.
Chashma-1 and Chashma-2 are the best electricity generating nuclear plants with a consistent supply of 600MW of electricity. The PM has already inaugurated 340MW Chashma-3 Power Plant in December 2016. Chashma-4 will be functional before the end of this year while K-2 and K-3 will add 8,800MW by 2030.
Fifth in line is Tarbela-4 Extension that will add 1,410MW to the national grid by July 2017. The world’s largest earth-filled dam with a capacity of 3,478MW in 1974 is being extended.
Neelum-Jhelum, another successful hydropower project with a capacity of 969MW, will be functional by February 2018. On the other hand, CPEC has put its main focus on energy generation and the results are already coming out.
The country has not generated this much energy in its history. However, the government is still being censured and remains the victim of much criticism. The opposition parties, despite knowing the reality, have directed their workers to criticise the government to the extent that it resigns before its tenure ends. One can understand the condition of people who suffer 10-16 hours of loadshedding. But the fact is that this loadshedding is a result of crises that started in 2006. The people of Pakistan are unaware of the fact that as much as 7.6 percent of the total revenue was used in providing a subsidy to the power sector in 2007-2008. Instead of investing in power generation, the government gave subsidy of 8.6 percent to the energy sector in 2009-2010 again.
The people of Pakistan have been hurt many times and have seen the worst. However, time is once again asking them to put their trust in the government. The world has its eyes on our development and the people need to stand by their government.
The days when industrial production was hit by an energy shortage are gone. Pakistan will not see a deteriorating economy any longer and the loss in the GDP will just be remembered as a bad phase in the country’s history. As Ahsan Iqbal quotes, “Pakistan is a classic case of glass half empty, half full”. It is the up to the citizens to view the glass in whichever way they want to. If they do not see the full side of the glass, they will become victims of further criticism.
The writer is a freelance contributor. Twitter: Faizankhaan91