Urgent practical solutions required after decades of neglect.

June 11 - 17, 2007

As was feared in these columns a few weeks earlier, the growing power shortage in the country, especially in the city of Karachi, has reached an alarming stage leading to power riots. Rising energy shortage has not only posed a potential threat to the countryís economic growth, it is causing immense discomfort to the general public who are passing sleepless nights as the electric fans stop functioning because of unannounced and prolonged load shedding.

The inevitable happened in Karachi on Tuesday last when in several parts of the city residents took to the streets to protest against prolonged power break downs and a riot like situation developed in the economic and commercial capital of the country. It will be a difficult task for any one to pacify these poor harried residents who are more or less going through a living hell. If the situation is not improved by the KESC, matters may get worse.

With the advent of the summer, the whole country is experiencing power shortages and unannounced load shedding. The situation is worst in Karachi because WAPDA has suspended the supply of about 400 MWTS of power that it used to supply to KESC since its privatization. According to WAPDA, it has no surplus to sell, as it was itself facing a shortage of electricity and resorting to load management in interior Punjab and Sindh. The new owners of KESC were bound as a part of sale agreement to make fresh investment and enhance their power generating capacity to cater to the demand of Karachi. Details of these fresh investments are still waiting to be made fully public.


The country is fast heading towards an electricity crisis in the coming years. Experts had warned last year that the country may be facing a shortage of about 1000 MW by 2007 which may rise to 5000 MW by 2010 and 10000 MW by 2020. This basically translates into load shedding on a larger scale in the years to come.

While the government is never tired of projecting Pakistan as a hub for business to the world, the continuously rising gap between supply and demand for power/electricity negates all such claims. The blame game is on between various government organizations holding responsible each other for the crisis. The Ministry of Water and Power, IRSA, WAPDA, KESC and other concerning bodies are holding each other responsible while the country sizzles. The Minister for Water and Power, Liaquat Jatoi, when grilled in the session of the National Assembly, last month blamed WAPDA for the 'mess'. He was of the view that the crisis like situation has erupted because of the inept handling by WAPDA. With careful load management the situation could be improved. Members present in the house, however, did not agree with the Minister and asked him to resign if he cannot control WAPDA. According to them the situation was not as simple as stated by the minister. According to government's own claims the demand for electricity was rising at the rate of 8 to 9 percent for the last five/six years. The government has failed to make any significant increase on the supply side.

In Pakistan, the widening gap between the production and consumption of electricity and its disastrous consequences on the economy are written on the wall. According to reliable estimates, total generation capacity in Pakistan currently stands at 20,184 MW while total demand of is calculated at 21,000 to reach 28,081 Mw by 2010. However, when we look at the likely transmission and distribution (T&D) losses, the system will still be left with a shortage of about 8000 MW. It seems that the demand of electricity which is rising by 8 percent per year and other factors like persistent T&D losses would not allow the supply and demand gap to be filled anytime soon.

The much publicized power policy of 2002 announced by the present government and which was supposed to serve as a better replacement of the 1994 power policy has failed to deliver. No doubt generation of hydropower is a long process, but there has been a dead silence on major dams despite all earlier rhetoric. The work has not yet started even on the Diamir Bhasha Dam, which was inaugurated by the President last year. A blanket hush has also over taken the government about Kalabagh Dam in spite of the President assertion that misunderstandings and misconception about the reservoir have been removed. The government has been talking of importing electricity and gas but practically there has been no progress on any of the several projects. Similarly, despite huge potential alternative energy, we have been extremely slow in exploiting the potential.

The Power Policy 2002 failed to deliver because of 2 mega factors i.e. non-availability of gas and an upfront tariff determined by NEPRA. As a result, sponsors of six fast track thermal power project of 1450 MW backed out. This proved a serious blow as it discouraged and disheartened other intending investors. Now a new short term revised policy has been prepared and approved.

The new policy envisages mainstreaming of renewable energy employing small hydro, wind and solar technologies in the development plans of the country. The draft of the policy was discussed in detail and finalized during a meeting held with Federal Minister for Water and Power, Liaquat Ali Jatoi in the chair. Explaining Mr. Liaquat Jatoi told newsmen that the policy lays down very liberal and attractive incentives to attract investment to put Pakistan on the Renewable Energy map of the world. Pakistan is blessed with abundance of renewable energy potential but so far its potential has not been harnessed.

The sources in the Ministry of Water and power told Page that KESC has also signed a loan agreement with Asian Development Bank of $ 150 million (52 billion) to implement its programme to increase its power generation and improve transmission and distribution system from present 1500 MW by June 2008. At present Karachi needs about 2000 MW, while KESC is generating about 1500 MW.

Demand for power has increased due to better business conditions and improved economic activities and this shortage is likely to hit the country earlier than estimated. The per capita consumption of energy in Pakistan is only 14 mmbtu. It is as high as 165 mmbtu in UK and 92 mmbtu in Malaysia, 33 mmbtu in China and 13 mmbtu in India. The per capita energy consumption reflects the industrial advancement of a country and the above figures clearly indicates the level of development in the countries. It is estimated that public sector accounts for almost 64 percent of the total power generation in the country of which the share of Wapda is 50 percent, the KESC 11 percent and PAEC 3 percent. In addition, IPPs are producing around 36 percent. Of total power production, the industrial sector consumes approximately 38 percent. However, the annual energy generation growth (AEGG) rate has been scaled down from 5.3 to 4.6 percent. Moreover, several energy analysts are of the opinion that the countryís energy infrastructure is the worst in Asia.

President General Pervez Musharraf recently said that the government is pursuing an extensive programme to meet countryís growing energy needs to sustain high economic growth and fast paced industrialization. Chairing a high level meeting also attended by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to review the power sector plans, he said that the nation has to tap all sources of energy generation to cater to its demand. He once again assured the nation that at least 3 big dams including Kala Bagh will be built during next 7/8 years.

It's encouraging that President Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz have been focusing on the countryís growing energy needs by holding meetings periodically to keep the authorities concerned on their toes for boosting power production. It manifests their cognizance of the significance of long drawn planning in keeping with the imperatives of the growing economies. Interestingly, Pakistan has the options of hydel, thermal, nuclear and coal based modes of energy generation. Hydel and nuclear are the cheapest sources of energy production for our nation. Nuclear energy is of course, cheaper, cleaner and safer and that's why Europe has opted for it. Pakistan is also opting for a plan for developing nuclear energy as is evident from reports about selection of six sites for installation of more power plants to increase the countryís generation capacity to 8,800 MW nuclear power by 2030 with Chinese help is certainly a matter of satisfaction.

Despite the fact that the ground breaking ceremony of Bhasha Dam, a Hydel Power project was performed by President Musharraf months ago contrary to the brisk activity on site and in media witnessed during the construction of Tarbela and Mangla dams in the past speed of work is rather too slow on Bhasha. A blanket hush has also overtaken the government about Kalabah Dam inspite of he President's assertions that misunderstandings and misperceptions about the reservoir have since been removed. An allocation of Rs.10 billion made in the 2006-07 budget for purchase of land for Kala Bagh Dam has not been utilized. It is sheer neglect. Pakistan has been blessed with ideal sites for water Dams which can provide over 20,000 MW of electricity at almost 1/5 the cost if compared to thermal power. They could also ensure adequate water for irrigation purposes for which the country is also facing the shortage.

Even the World Bank has warned that Pakistan has been too slow in the construction of new water reservoirs which could threaten the countryís survival. The WB team headed by World Bank senior advisor on Water and other relates issues, David R.C Grey, held detailed discussions with the officials on 'The future progress in water sector including implementation of water country strategy. The delegation came to Pakistan on February 7 and held detailed discussions with the officials of the Ministry of Water and Power, Economic Affairs Division (EAD), Ministry of Finance and Advisor to Prime Minister Dr. Salman Shah till February 10.

According to some experts, the countryís acute power crunch could be obviated by utilizing the vast reserves of high quality coal reserves — one of the top ten coal reserves in the world. Experts believe that by using only five percent of its huge coal reserves, Pakistan can generate about 20,000 megawatts of electricity for nearly 40 years.