Towards combating power crisis

Written By: Engineer Tahir Basharat Cheema

Pakistan is facing debilitating power shortages since the last five years. The crunch is surely on account of the apathy of a whole decade, which started as a backlash to the induction of the IPPs and the ensuing glut in the late 1990s. Instead of making the best out of it by considering the same as an opportunity, we simply lost our cool and stayed off-course.

The consumption-led growth strategy, compounded by fast and unwarranted urbanisation and rise in standards of living (not much supported by the pre-requisites for the same) further spoilt the broth. Now we are short of power, gas, have broken all records of oil import and lastly are becoming a water-scarce country. Besides deficits, the issue of affordability has also arisen. All in all, a very serious situation.

The critique brigade may call for lynching of quite a few, the tomes may seek explanation and the armchair experts would surely suggest solutions to all the above shortages – but the fact of the matter remains, that all solutions will entail long periods to complete, while demand for energy (of all categories) is increasing at a hefty 7-8% each year. We must remember that the above increase is on the face of a suppressed demand.

In other words, in case all of a sudden full supplies are made available without any constrictions, the yearly demand for the first five years may even double to upto 15% or so. This fact translates into the requirement to come-up with a solution that supplements the supply side solutions in the pipeline, but at the same time that does not compromise the productivity level.

More so, when most of the armchair experts in Pakistan, consider even the tested and tried solutions as possibly affecting the national productivity levels. This was the probable reason why the extremely beneficial five-day week and the advancement of clocks was scuttled last year on the basis of GoP notification dated November 27, 2010.

The quick solution that does not require finances or gestation period to complete is simple conservation. This can mean optimum use and doing away with wastage. The experts are of the opinion and that too on the basis of proven evidence, that correct implementation of conservation measures will not result in any loss of productivity-rather, the savings can be channelized towards the productive sectors thus providing a chance for enhanced level of productivity.

There is another issue to contend with viz. the public’s penchant for being informed about the credible gains of each separate measure of conservation. And the exasperating part is that they have to be individually convinced and that too time and again. Even more serious is the requirement and wish that none of the conservation steps may require even a little bit of sacrifice on part of the people. Whether this is some deeply engrained national problem or the public’s lack of trust in the governmental proclamations, one thing is for sure. This would be the fact that the relevant personages in the country are somehow averse to own and champion conservation.

On the other hand, as summers are fast approaching, with the present power deficits bound to balloon, quick action is needed to somewhat bridge the gaps and arrange for better supplies in comparison to last years. Whatever is the situation and however the opposition to conservation is, there is no fast-track solution to the crisis other than conservation and consequently PEPCO’s 10 point agenda will have to be implemented in all earnest.

The agenda consists of restricting shops and plazas to shut business by 8 pm, requirement for agricultural tubewells not to draw water during evening peak hours, lighting-up of only alternate street light points, disconnection of bill boards from the national grid, government offices to reduce their electricity usage by 25% and for not using air conditioning before 11 am, curtailment of marriage and banquet halls to just three hours in the evening ; to be garnished by the requirement to shun ornamental and decorative lighting, neon signs and such non-productive usage. Additionally, two other measures have to be adopted viz. daylight saving time through advancement of clocks and the 5 days week for governmental offices.

The public awareness campaign, looking at reduced uses specially during the peak hours, would be adding to the savings on account of the institutional conservation program. Here, the public can be specifically requested to use the minimum of energy or power intensive gadgets like ACs, washing machines and iron during the peak hours. Additionally, normal usage needs to be reduced by switching-off extra loads etc and by using the ACs at 26C. Such effort of last summers yielded about 800 MW during peak hours and was amongst the pillars of the conservation effort then.

Implementation of this agenda would result in the saving of 500 MW on the average during the off-peak hours, while a saving or a reduction in demand reaching upto 2000 MW can be achieved during the evening peaks. Incidentally, both the advancement of clocks and the five day week have a huge role in the above figure. So much is the saving on account of the full agenda, that the run-away load shedding being conducted during January-mid April in 2010 was immediately controlled and then brought to the minimum after the Energy Summit resulted in the acceptance of the Pepco’s 10-point agenda.

Additionally, wasteful usage of gas is something very serious and which cannot be accepted. More so, when the gas thus saved can be used to lower the cost of power generation, which is increasing day by day on account of the ever-rising oil cost. Consequently, all gas customers need to be made to adhere to their agreements with the gas companies, residential and commercial generators will have to be disconnected from the pipelines; programme to change the existing burner tips with standard equipment will have to be expedited.

There is also a requirement to reduce POL usage in the transport sector for which the National Engines Tuning Program and the National Tractors Repairs and Tuning Programme will have to be implemented. But, as the most debilitating of the problems is the power shortage, which according to Pepco sources would be 3500 MW against the shortage of 5500 MW last year, implementation of Pepco’s conservation program will have to be accorded due priority.

This conservation program can, after addition of 2000 MW to the system during the last three years, ensure the maximum of 8-10 hours of load shedding (Pepco’s presentation to the NA’s Standing Committee on Water and Power) in urban and rural areas respectively. Otherwise, a little disturbance in the availability of generation plants or constraints in fuel supply will play havoc. Conservation will also ensure that the industry and commerce could be provided with maximum of their needs.

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