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The smart grid in Naya Pakistan

Enormous challenges lie ahead for the newly-formed government in Pakistan. One of the acutest conundrums is the power outages/load-shedding, let alone the price of the utility. By and large, the discussion about electricity in Pakistan begins with a few topics such as circular debt touching the unprecedented amount of one billion rupees, increase in demand, direct connections better known as the kunda system (electricity theft), dilapidated transmission lines along with the distribution capacity etc.

The energy policy by the erstwhile government in 2013 focused more on the problem in recoveries rather than the menace of the run-down transmission system, which was the need of the hour. The previous government should have addressed the issue of the cost of load-shedding which is estimated to be over one trillion rupees a year.

Pakistan’s electricity transmission and distribution system is perhaps one of the poorest in the world, to say the least. And on top of that nothing concrete, except window dressing, has ever been done seriously by the successive governments. The situation is exactly same today as it was around two decades ago in the country.

The incumbent government needs to work on amelioration of electricity transmission lines rather than the same old narrative of increasing the electricity generation capacity, though this is equally imperative.

The whopping question is ‘how is it going to be done when there is almost nothing in the government kitty?’ Pakistan forgoes around two percent growth of the GDP every year owing to the paucity, loss, theft and non-availability of electricity. Two percent of GDP comes to around $6 billion dollars. If Pakistan loses around $6 billion dollars every year due to power sector inefficiency etc., what is in the minds of the new economic managers and the ministry of industry regarding investment for grid modernization? Evidence suggests that if nothing regarding the modernization of transmission system of electricity is done seriously, Pakistan might drift to stone-age. It is a known fact that consumers pay a heavy price for the negligence of distribution companies. If consumers are compelled to pay the line losses amounting to over Rs200 billion a year, the question of justice rises over and over again. The consumers claim that when the main grid station trips, they are at the mercy of God since no one knows how long it will take for the electricity supply to be restored. Patience of over 26 million electricity consumers in Pakistan comprising domestic, commercial, industrial and agriculture has almost run out and they are looking towards the concept of naya (new) Pakistan and the resolution of these long-standing conundrums. Transmission Lines need to be modernized since they carry electricity from the source of power generation to the distribution system.

 

According to a recent estimation, Pakistan requires approximately $40 billion investment in the transmission and distribution system to completely end load-shedding. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

From where would this colossal investment descend?

Pakistan’s transmission and distribution capacity is around 22,000MW compared to the demand of 25,000MW both by the residential and industrial entities. This speaks volumes of the fact that even if more electricity is generated by hook or crook, the transmission system cannot withstand it beyond 22,000MW.

Well, the world is moving fast and there are discussions and implementation about the concept of the smart grid to benefit the consumers and the economy of the country. The smart grid assures reliable as well as high-quality digital-grade power, increased electricity-related services and an improved environment.

There is no second opinion that energy-efficient buildings and other measures are in place in Pakistan like the rest of the world, however, this does not negate the rise in the demand of electricity with every passing year. Ten percent average increase in demand per annum is a common phenomenon in almost every country of the world because of the massive growth of digital device usage, ever increasing use of air conditioning, burgeoning population, to name a few.

Matiari-Lahore transmission line, a project of 878 kilometer of $2 billion, is the highest ever investment in the transmission line which would carry 4,950MW of electricity from Tharparkar, Hub and Karachi to Punjab. One more instance of investment is the transmission line from Port Qasim to Faisalabad with 4,000MW capacity. The projects of such nature need the time span of over three years to be developed. The incumbent government has got a big ask and the role of the state-owned National Transmission and Dispatch Company would be crucial in terms of the amelioration of the electricity transmission system in Pakistan.

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