the energy crisis for sustainable development
The growing energy supply deficit has an adverse impact on business and
industrial activities, consequently hampering the economy’s march
towards growth and prosperity
By M. Osman Ghani
Along with the menace of terrorism, rampant
corruption and uncontrollable price-hike, the nation is witnessing an
acute energy crisis that is likely to aggravate in the coming years. It
has landed the economy in dire straits and poses a threat to the
socio-economic fabric of the country.
The growing energy supply deficit has an adverse impact on business
and industrial activities, consequently hampering the economy’s march
towards growth and prosperity.
The energy crisis has compelled a large number of
industrial units to close down all over the country, particularly in
Punjab, due to disruption in gas supply and prolonged load-shedding. Motor
car owners have no option but to stand and wait in long queues for hours,
at CNG stations, to fill their gas cylinders due to gas load-shedding.
Energy is an indispensable need not just for the
maintenance and development of human life but also to generate sufficient
economic activities. The country is presently facing a daunting task to
meet its soaring energy demand that is likely to double in the next 10-15
years. Pakistan is among those developing countries where the need to
tackle the energy challenge is the greatest. Therefore, ensuring the
availability of usable and affordable energy forms the core of the
country’s current and future problems. In recent years, the energy
demand has surged sharply owing to rise in population and trade
activities. The supply of
energy, on the other hand, has remained far too short to match the
mounting demand because the existing resources could not be sufficiently
explored and exploited.
The shortfall of electricity becomes more severe
during summers. However, this winter was no different. Power outages last for 3-4 hours in major cities and
12-14 hours in far-flung areas during the peak summer season. Consumers face many hardships on account of perpetual power
failures and above everything else, sky-rocketing prices of electricity.
Shut down of a large number of industrial units have the following
implications: (1) an
increasing number of regular employees and daily wage earners are deprived
of their only source of income, hence they are pushed into the vicious
circle of poverty; (2) the
government is deprived of a big chunk of tax revenue due to shrinking of
important revenue sources, namely
industry, business and trade; and
(3) declining volume of foreign exchange earnings as the capacity of
producing surplus export goods, especially by the textile industry, is
adversely affected. A clear
manifestation of the shocking reality is that during the first four months
of the current fiscal year the overall large-scale manufacturing growth
was down by 2.07 per cent, compared to a growth of 0.67 per cent in the
same period last year. If the ongoing energy mayhem is not tackled
promptly and effectively, through both short and long-term measures, the
country might have to pay a bigger price for it in the near future, in the
shape of rising unemployment and revenue shortfall.
As per some latest reports the country’s overall
power shortage at peak hours has exceeded 4,770 MW, causing on an average
load-shedding of over 10 hours, mainly on the back of closure of 24
thermal power plants and a substantial reduction in hydropower generation.
The latest upsurge in terrorist attacks on natural gas pipelines in
Balochistan may further complicate the energy crisis, if not tackled
urgently through prudent measures. Besides the textile industry is passing
through a difficult phase due to severe energy shortage in the country.
Presently, electricity demand per day could exceed
20,000 MW if all the consumers are provided uninterrupted supply. The per
day electricity demand will surely surpass 30,000 MW by 2020 if the
present trend of annual electricity demand continues.
To fulfil the widening gap of supply and demand, curative measures
need to be undertaken including expeditious completion of the ongoing
hydro and thermal power projects, and conservation of energy.
Pakistan is currently facing about 600 mmcf natural gas shortfall.
According to official estimates, domestic gas demand would increase to 6.8
bcfd by 2015. Importing energy from Iran and Central Asia along with
developing indigenous sources, such as hydel, coal, waste, wind, and solar
power, as well as other alternate and renewable energy sources are the
viable options to meet future energy demand. In addition, more nuclear
power plants for production of energy need to be undertaken. If the
country wants to speed up its economic development and improve the quality
of life of its people, it has to take serious steps towards framing a
coherent energy policy.
The policy makers should have foreseen the rising
demand of energy during the period of strong economic growth, especially
in the first decade of this century. However, Pakistan can now meet its
surging energy demand with the help of friendly countries like China.
China, having a vast experience in developing and modernising various
sources of energy, can help the country to overcome its energy deficiency.
China also appears to be willing to help Pakistan and invest in its ailing
As a result of the recent visit of Chinese Prime
Minister, Wen Jiabao; economic cooperation between Pakistan and China will
be further accelerated. The two countries have expressed their
determination to further cement and deepen their strategic and bilateral
partnership. China is ready to undertake heavy investment in various
sectors of the country’s economy ranging up to $30 billion.
Investment in the energy sector by Chinese companies
is one of the priority areas. The energy cooperation mechanism between
Pakistan and China should be firmly established to push forward Chinese
assistance in conventional, renewable and civil nuclear energy of
Pakistan. This support in Pakistan’s energy sector will no doubt be very
helpful for the country and its vast populace, as China has a rich
experience in effectively exploiting its energy resources than many other
countries in the world.