Focus on demand, not supply

July 27, 2014

Conservation of energy can be a major step in handling the power shortfall

Focus on demand, not supply

There could be different approaches to deal with the issue of electricity in the country. But in Pakistan, different governments have focused more on the supply side to solve the issue by producing more electricity. There has been no serious effort to focus on the demand which can be controlled through conservation of electricity.

The governments, over the past many years, have focused on shutting down bazaars and markets early to conserve energy as a major step to reducing load shedding. This ad-hoc step has hardly worked as it has faced severe resistance from the business community while showing that the governments have had no long-term energy conservation programmes.

Experts say that steps such as closing the bazaars early would hardly have an impact on electricity conservation in the country. "They need to take a holistic approach which not only focuses on conservation but on efficiency as well," says Energy Conservation Fund Technical Manager, Asad Mahmood, at National Energy Conservation Centre (Enercon), who is also Pakistan’s first Asian Productivity Organisation-certified trainer on Green Productivity and energy efficiency.

Before joining Enercon in 2011, Asad Mahmood has conducted more than 200 energy audits which led to savings of around 10 to 15 Megawatts of connected load. "Energy audits can help improve inefficient systems and bring down costs. Studies have shown that many of our existing systems, especially in the industry, are inefficient while most of our house appliances are also not energy efficient. These include items like refrigerators, air conditioners, geysers, heaters, and other appliances that use a lot of energy."

Energy conservation and efficiency, according to Asad Mahmood, can save up to 25 percent of the total consumption. "Energy conservation and efficiency can be game-changers as they are the least costly options."

He says Enercon should be empowered, "At present, its recommendations are not binding. Energy Efficiency and Conservation Bill which seek a ban on the manufacture, sale, purchase, and import of appliances found to be energy inefficient was tabled in the parliament first in 2011 but has been failed to catch support of law makers."

Conservation and efficiency is so important that Japan, which is among the largest economies in the world, has not installed a major electricity production unit since the mid 1990s and is fulfilling its needs only by conserving energy.

Interestingly, on May 30, 2014 the Council of Common Interest (CCI) during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved Pakistan Energy Efficiency and Conservation (PPEC) Bill, 2014. Under the bill, which is yet to be presented before the parliament, the Ministry of Water and Power will form a 23-member board to set standards for energy efficiency and prescribe measures of energy conservation.

Sources in Enercon say a draft of the proposed bill has already been sent to different ministries for their comments. "It may take over a year to get comments from different ministries," they say.

Energy conservation and efficiency techniques are hard to sell in Pakistan as they need behavioural changes in case of conservation as well as high capital costs in case of efficiency.

"Capital costs might be high for installing energy efficient systems and gadgets but simple acts, such as switching off extra lights, not putting laptops, mobiles and TVs on standby position can help in energy conservation and improving efficiency," says Asif Masood, independent energy conservation and efficiency expert who authored ‘Gap analysis on Energy Efficiency, Institutional arrangements in Pakistan,’ a report for SAARC Energy Center with assistance of UN in 2010. The report discusses the gaps, challenges and barriers to energy efficiency institutional arrangements in Pakistan.

"Energy conservation and efficiency is not a priority agenda for our governments. Government ownership is needed to implement policies, such as closing the bazaars early," Asif says, adding, "The government has failed to implement its energy conservation policies even at public offices. All over the world public offices open at a particular time and are closed at a specific time. In Pakistan, most of the offices are open till late. Officers use public resources and nobody questions them." Asif believes Demand Side Management (DSM) programmes should be explored properly in Pakistan to conserve energy.

On paper, Pakistan drew up a detailed National Energy Conservation Plan in 1986 with funding and technical assistance from USAID. An autonomous National Energy Conservation Centre (Enercon) was established in December 1986 as the government’s focal implementing agency. In 1992, Enercon also prepared Pakistan’s National Conservation Strategy and Plan of Action 1993-1998 to deliver energy conservation and efficiency services in a cost-effective and commercially viable manner.

Under the action plan, a long-term endowment was also set up to generate revenues for Enercon to maintain its plan. On ground, however, nothing serious has been done so far.

Enercon has failed to make any impact and, lately, has become a dead horse. A lack of sustained political support has, therefore, led to this situation. At present, a majority of its senior posts are vacant since months or years. Enercon has been acting as an NGO since long and dependent almost entirely on donor funded initiatives even for its financial needs and technical activities.

"The absence of conservation and efficiency regulations is the key to failure of most of the drives for energy conservation in Pakistan," says Asif Masood. To him, the government of Pakistan must play a leading role in energy conservation moves by taking their ownerships but each citizen of this country will need to actively participate.

"The people of Pakistan need to understand that every single person can help during the current energy shortage by saving energy and by doing simple things like switching off lights when leaving the room, using air conditioners on 25-26 degree and buying energy-efficient electric equipment. Conservation and efficiency is so important that Japan, which is among the largest economies in the world, has not installed a major electricity production unit since the mid 1990s and is fulfilling its needs only by conserving energy and using most efficient equipments at industry and homes," he says.

Focus on demand, not supply