Pakistans infrastructure and its implications

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ENERGY IS the soul of all modern societies. The majority of productive and supportive activities in todays world are heavily dependent on uninterrupted supply of energy. Whether it is industry or agriculture, transport, communication, services, education, health care, entertainment, water supply or sanitation; it is unimaginable to pursue any of these activities without the availability of adequate and reliable energy in one form or the other.

Electric power, which is the most widely used form of energy in todays world, is also dependent on other forms of energy inputs for its generation. Thus, access to reliable, affordable and uninterrupted supply of energy is the key to economic growth and welfare of any society. The appetite for energy is increasing day by day with rapid population growth and development activities, known sources of energy are limited and rapidly depleting. If this demand is not met adequately a shortage in supply occurs. This shortage can assume crisis proportions.

Pakistans energy infrastructure is not well developed, rather it is considered to be underdeveloped and poorly managed as currently, the country is facing severe energy crisis. Despite of strong economic growth and rising energy demand during past decade, no serious efforts have been made to install new capacity of generation. Moreover, rapid demand growth, transmission losses due to outdated infrastructure, power theft, and seasonal reductions in the availability of hydropower have worsened the situation. Consequently, the demand exceeds supply and hence load-shedding is a common phenomenon through power shutdown.

Pakistans Electrical Energy supply department is WAPDA and KESC. The country started with the power generation capacity of 60MW at the time of its independence in 1947. Power infrastructure development gained momentum after the 1970s and installed capacity of 636MW in 1970 rose to 9094 MW in 1990-91. The performance of WAPDA and KESC (two leading public sector utilities at that time) remained satisfactory till the mid-1980s. After that, severe constraints in the availability of capital led to an inadequate generation capacity as well as transmission and distribution infrastructure. This increase in the supply of electricity was unable to keep pace with demand in that period that was growing consistently at 9-10 percent per annum.

In the early 1990s, power supply lagged behind demand resulting in excessive shortage of electricity, particularly for the industrial and commercial consumers resulting heavy financial losses due to undue political interference, corruption in the management of limited capital resources, overstaffing and bureaucratic delays in handling routine matters in these public utilities, inappropriate and costly investments, poor quality of services, high system losses and poor collection of bills from the customer; all negatively affected the financial health of the industry

Pakistan has an installed electricity generation capacity of 22,797MW. The average demand is 17,000MW and the shortfall is between 4,000 and 5,000MW. The generation of Pakistan energy depends on Oil (35.2 per cent), hydel (29.9 per cent), gas (29 per cent), and nuclear and imported (5.8 per cent) sources. In the next 10 years, peak electricity demand is expected to rise by four to five per cent, which is roughly 1,500MW. This dismal forecast is due to a lopsided energy mix, diminishing indigenous fuel reserves, increasing circular debt and transmission hold-ups. Pakistan has almost exhausted its gas reserves. Imported oils price hikes affect the budget and its constant supply cannot be guaranteed. Pakistan has the potential to meet these energy challenges through hydel power but there are political and environmental issues in building dams. Rationality demands reducing reliance on oil and going for alternatives.

The development of alternatives does not happen overnight. Pakistan will have to rely on imported fuels for the interim period at a huge cost. LNG is difficult to import, using coal has environmental issues, using shale gas also has environmental issues attached with it, and wind power has transmission network challenges. These all challenges have left Pakistan with an energy gap of 4,000-5,000MW.

It is imperative for Pakistan to resolve the energy crisis at priority basis. The energy crisis in countries like Pakistan ends up affecting the industries. As interruptions in power supply either makes the factories underperformed in terms of production or in some cases they have to be closed. This affects the production and ultimately becomes a big dent on exports of the country. Also the unemployment rate, which is already a big problem, keeps rising even faster.

Lifestyle and living standards of people come down very much. In countries like Pakistan, the less of people can afford their own UPS or generators, so many have to wait for electricity to do next task. Health issues definitely arise when electricity load shedding of 12 to 20 hours is in place and heat is jumping above the 40 degree Celsius mark.

Education sector is also affected, as its very difficult for students to concentrate on studies in temperatures above 40 degree Celsius and no electricity in their homes to cool them down. Also any online research is definitely not possible during the hours of electricity load shedding.

The policy makers of Pakistan should consider alternate energy (renewable source of energy) sources such as solar, windmill energy, etc. to address the energy crisis. These are cheap and quick methods for producing electricity. Pakistan is very blessed because abundant solar energy is available. Similarly, wind energy is readily available in the coastal areas and throughout the winter months in Baluchistan. These energy sources if tapped can be of great help in reducing the current demand supply gap.


Published in: Volume 06 Issue 21

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