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July 24, 2018

Energy security lies submerged in election manifestos


July 24, 2018

LAHORE: Energy security failed to get attention of political parties during their election campaigns in power-deficient Pakistan.

Several energy experts believe that electioneering in the country presents a dismal picture as far as debate on policy issues like energy security and role of political leadership are concerned. We hardly see objective criticism on each other by political leadership of mainstream parties.

Pakistan is an energy-deficient country primarily because of non-existence/non-utilisation of natural resources. Experts said challenges related to energy availability and affordability, especially about power generation and supply, are constant source of concern. Energy crisis hurt economic growth the most in the last more than a decade.

Unfortunately, energy security has not been on the radar of almost all the political parties despite gravity of situation. We didn’t see any considerable discussion on the issues relating to energy security in the elections campaign, experts said.

In the manifestos of political parties, issues relating to energy security are mentioned. But, this highly important issue could not become a talking point by political leaders. Tahir Basharat Cheema, ex-chief of Pakistan Electric Power Company said no one even understands the simple meaning of energy security. Even the last government did nothing in this regard.

He said the foundation of power sector is not on solid grounds as “we are still indulged in producing costly power”. It is simply not feasible and would continue to create problems in making it affordable, he added.

The last government did some effort to diversify power generation mix but the progress has just been peanuts keeping in view huge potential of abundant indigenous resources. The dream of affordable energy could not be materialised too although gap between demand and supply of electricity was bridged to some extent, the experts said.

Various estimates showed that Pakistan’s power generation mix has seen some fundamental changes with addition of coal, imported gas and renewable resources during the last five years. Of around 10,000 megawatts added in the national grid since 2013, 6,475MW or two-third are based on imported re-gasified liquefied natural gas (RLNG). Around one-fourth or 2,600MW of newly-installed power plants are based on imported coal.

Almas Hyder, an industrialist, said the energy mix needs to be drastically changed as quickly as possible. All future power generation plants should to be based on wind, solar, hydro, coal or nuclear sources.

Hyder said the focus should be on indigenous energy sources “as we have to reduce the share of costly imported oil and gas”. He said some people with vested interest do not want local materials to be used for various purposes, including power generation. Coal is being excessively used in Germany, UK, USA, Russia and all other developed countries. Coal is primary source of power generation in China and India too, he added.

Nuclear power doubled to 1,246MW in 2018 from 615MW in 2013. Renewable sector has seen a quantum jump to 1,524MW in 2018 from 50MW in 2013.

Ashfaq Mahmood, former secretary of ministry of water and power agreed that one of important elements of energy security lies in developing indigenous energy resources. However, development of indigenous energy related industry has also assumed paramount importance as “otherwise we remain only consumers at the mercy of other technology providers”. “We should insist on technology transfer,” Mahmood said. Energy conservation is equally important for energy security.

Izharul Haq, a hydropower consultant said development of Indus cascade should be developed at the earliest “if we want to produce cheap and abundant electricity”.

Haq said financial constraints should be sorted out with a view to kick start hydropower and water conservation projects on Indus River. “It is an indispensable part of energy security strategy.”

The new generation mix is more diverse, but less environment-friendly with share of hydropower generation on the downward trend. Renewable energy sources still account for only five percent of total power generation mix, while costly thermal power generation is on the rise. From perspective of energy security, dependence on fossil fuel shows an upward trend with initiation of coal and RLNG imports.

Mohsin Syed, ex-chief executive of national industrial park blamed inefficient and badly-governed public sector department for poor performance in power generation.

The technocrats of Water and Power Development Authority, National Transmission and Despatch Company and discos are unfortunately part of problem. Mostly, they are incompetent and also indulged in corrupt practices, Syed said.

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