Pakistan’s energy crises – in search of a policy combo

According to a report of ADB about energy crises in Pakistan, at current pace the power generation capacity must grow to at least 162,590 MW by 2030. Energy conservation policies can help minimize the associated losses. About 268,400 TJ of energy can be saved annually, which is equivalent to 15% of the total energy consumed in 2009.

energy crises in Pakistan

Our dependence on energy is crucial enough to be, metaphorically, termed a human’s ‘seventh sense’. During the last century, world population increased nearly four folds and the energy usage multiplied about twenty times. For Pakistan, a developing country with aspirations to mark quantum-leaps in achieving developmental targets, the energy consumption is poised to increase, as suggested by UNDP’s Human Development Index.

The current per capita energy consumption is 449 kWh, while the worldwide average remains 2,782 kWh. In addition, Thomas L Friedman is of the view that human populace is on way to achieve the energy-facet of American Lifestyle i.e. a per capita energy consumption of 12,500 kWh approx. In short, the future holds steep projections in national energy consumption.

Energy shortage 

At the same time, the country is experiencing an energy shortage of 5-7 GW, which costs up to 4% to the GDP. Therefore, the economic progress has been haltered badly. Various estimates suggest that the reserves of natural gas which contribute about 50 pc of energy to Pakistan will start declining within the next decade. So, the storage capacity of dams is reducing due to silting e.g. capacity of Tarbela dam has decreased by 27 percent.

Energy potential 

Fortuitously, there lies ample resource potential. Pakistan can harness the widely available conventional and non-conventional energy sources. Potential of hydropower, wind energy and solar photovoltaic energy is 60 GW, 50 GW and 50,000 MW respectively. Geothermal energy has the potential almost equivalent to that of Thar coals i.e. about 100,000 MW. And, the coastal belt of Makran is seat to energy-rich gas hydrates.

Five-whys technique 

Fig. 1A shows the application of the iterative ‘5 Why Technique’ to dig into the root cause of the energy-shortage nightmare. It can be inferred that one of the solutions is to forge a long-run energy-centric visionary approach.

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Figure 1A: Application of 5 Whys technique

Nevertheless, the phenomenon of ‘rebound effect’ also needs not be ignored. That is, the energy demands increase in proportion to new energy additions. Portending climatic changes further add fuel to the fire. Thus, any energy-intensive maneuver, to be efficacious, must be multifarious. Primarily, it must orbit the following major pivots: enhanced generation capacity; symbiosis between sustainability and energy; and curtailment of the energy demand through energy conservation.

Major factors of energy crises

Some of the major factors which hold critical importance in the energy paradigm, along with relevant policy recommendations, are as follows:

A. Financial factors

According to estimates, government owes half a trillion rupees to various energy companies and energy crises have inflicted approximately $100 billion to the national exchequer. Unless such realities are considered on priority basis, any step to mitigate energy crises will not be productive.

B. Policy factors 

We need an integrated policy which weds energy, environment, sustainability, economics and developmental targets together. For instance, Pakistan is signatory to Paris Climate Change Accord and United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in addition to have adopted, on national levels, Vision 2025 and the developmental endeavors like China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Thus, the most viable national energy mix must be identified and an ‘energy for all’ principle followed by a ‘sustainable, inclusive and eco-friendly first’ policy needs to be formulated.

C. Energy conservation and energy efficiency 

According to a report of Asian Development Bank (ADB), at current pace the power generation capacity must grow to at least 162,590 MW by 2030. Energy conservation policies can help minimize the associated losses. About 268,400 TJ of energy can be saved annually, which is equivalent to 15% of the total energy consumed in 2009. Households consume a significant portion of total electricity. Merely replacing the incandescent bulbs by Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) can save about 1,600 MW. Some of major suggestions are as follows:

  1. Encouraging the adoption of energy-efficient devices such as Variable Frequency Drives, High Pressure Sodium lamps, LED Lights and Power Factor correction capacitors etc
  2. Promotion of ENERCON building energy codes and relevant industrial codes
  3. Facilitation of Environmental Impact Assessment and the ISO 50001 Energy Management Standard
D. Distributed generation and reverse metering 

Since significant population lacks direct access to national grid, a viable alternative is to encourage distributed generation i.e. installing generation at the distribution level. This will lower transmission and distribution losses and facilitate quicker electrification of off-grid communities. And, reverse metering, a mechanism that allows investors to sell extra electricity to utility, can not only reduce burden over the grid but also pave way for community’s active inclusiveness. Both must be promoted.

E. Environmental threats

A major chunk of our energy needs come from combustion of hydrocarbon compounds, which release Greenhouse Gases (GHG) and damage the environment. The environmental levels in major Pakistani cities exceed the allowable limits. According to estimates of World Bank, annually, air pollution costs Pakistan about $ 1 billion and causes 22,000 deaths.

Federal government has estimated that in the current Business As Usual (BAU) scenario, Pakistan will need about $40 billion to compensate for the increased emissions of the next 10 years. Therefore, environmentally-friendly energy generation options should be encouraged instead. Further, promoting Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and ISO 14001 Environmental Management Standard can pave way for eco-friendly initiatives.

F. Transmission and distribution losses 

Losses of transmission and distribution cost about Rs 360 billion to the national exchequer annually. This spotlights the need to renovate the electric-grid infrastructure. Two of the feasible options are to consider Flexible Alternating Current Transmission Systems (FACTS) and High Voltage Direct Current transmission (HVDC).

G. Monitoring energy projects 

From history, some of the energy projects are notable of corruption, bribery and embezzlement of funds. Proper transparency and quality mechanisms must be ensured by adopting relevant international standards i.e. ISO 37001: Anti Bribery Standard; ISO 19600: Compliance Management; and ISO 9001: Quality Management should be adopted.

H. Carbon tax and carbon offset 

One of the ways to convince various entities to opt eco-friendly and sustainable energy options is to introduce policies such as carbon tax, carbon rebate, carbon credit and carbon offset programmes.

I. Public-Private Partnership and energy entrepreneurship schemes

Tackling a big challenge that terrifies both policy-makers and hoi polloi is impossible without intervention of private sector. Same holds true for resolving the energy crises. Authorities must facilitate and convince the private sector to extend helping hand. Individual homeowners should be encouraged to go greener and incentive-schemes should be launched to encourage community-based Micro and Pico-hydro projects.

J. Rural electrification and sustainable urbanization 

About half of the rural households lack access to electricity. On the other hand, urbanization is increasing and it is projected that about 70 percent of the country’s population will reside in the seven biggest cities alone within a couple of decades. This stresses the need to pave ways for rural electrification as well as to adopt sustainable and low-carbon powering options for the urban environments.


Keeping in view the grim facts, associated exigency and the perceptive recommendations, there is an urgent need to cope the energy crises with pragmatic policy measures. Energy independence complemented with sustainability must be the motto fed into the country’s legislative DNA.

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