Pakistan’s energy sector is hanging in balance due to inefficiencies, burgeoning circular debt, massive dependence on imported fossil fuels. Pakistan has amalgamated different energy-related ministries and institutions under one ministry but is still unable to develop a comprehensive and integrated policy for ensuring national energy security which has caused an energy crisis in Pakistan. Pakistan lags behind in framing a well-defined national energy strategy which means that there is a deficiency of a proper mechanism for coordination among different entities which most of the time works in opposite direction. Thus, the government has never been able to do more than pay lip service at the time of the energy crisis in Pakistan. The crisis in the energy sector is certainly and incontrovertibly, a direct threat to Pakistan’s fragile economy and energy security as well as it burdens the common consumers.
The looming threats of a new energy crisis in Pakistan including climate change demands that energy must come from clean, safe, and environment-friendly sources. Pakistan’s energy sector largely comprises of independent power plants (IPPs). They have grave impacts on Pakistan’s debt-ridden economy. No doubt, economic security ensures national security for any country. Pakistan mainly relies on the power sector, its smooth flow maintains the economy, tragically Pakistan’s power sector is bankrupt due to gross mismanagement along with circular debt. Failure to pay bill payments activates a chain of delayed payments for imported furnace, oil, natural oil, gas or other inputs to the thermal generation system.
Maintenance of the energy sector is directly linked with deep governance and management reforms to lessen inefficiencies and reduce the energy crisis in Pakistan. Pakistan is in dire need to follow its neighbouring countries’ modules for accelerated economic growth with minor cost of development. India and China both are leading Asia in green energy. India has attained the 4th global position in wind power and 5th in solar installation capacity. Similarly, China’s RE has been estimated 40pc of the total installed capacity and about 20pc of total power generation.
Pakistan’s failure to adopt global trends is one of the major reasons for the energy crisis. For instance contrary, to India and China, Pakistan abandoned its earlier targets of 1,235MW of wind and 430MW of solar, as determined in the 2006 policy for the development of RE for power generation. The alternative and RE policy adopted by the former government in 2019 reset the target for energy from RE sources from 2030 to 30pc excluding hydropower. This target was further reduced to 12pc by the Indicative Generation Capacity Expansion (IGCEP) plan approved in 2021. This has counter effects on solar and wind energy implementation.
The energy crisis does not only trigger power shortages but also creates unrest among the masses. There is record inflation and high electricity prices have been observed in the county in recent years. Electricity and inflation are correlated, so, electricity shortage is an indication of economic instability which makes people uncertain about their future.
Counter effects of the energy crisis on agriculture and industrial sectors are huge challenges for Pakistan. Numerous textile mills will be unable to continue to export operations if cheap and unhindered electricity supply does not available for them. Consequently, unemployment increased, in 2011-12 Pakistan faced a loss of Rs 210bn and $1bn of export earnings owing to uncontrolled load-shedding in the industrial sector. Moreover, 400,000 workers were also deprived of their employment.
Hence, to mitigate the energy crisis in Pakistan, the cheapest options for energy production along with good governance and management are needed. Hydel power is one of the cheapest sources of electricity generation though, it is a time-taking project but has countless benefits for the debt-ridden economy of Pakistan. Pakistan should consider building small dams, adopting energy-efficient technology, inserting electricity saving devices, public awareness to switch off extra lights.
SYEDA HADIA BAKHTAWAR