26 - May 2, 2010

In the wake of persistent power crisis that led to public protest across the country, the government has finally decided to undertake four-pronged measures including conservation to save 500MW, short-term measures to operationalise 10 IPPs for an immediate addition of 300MW and 1305 MWs by end of year, while 605MW to be added through rental power, financial measures to ensure payment of Rs116 billion to slash circular debt, and long term measures to add 21,000MW through hydel, 30,000MW through coal and 15000 MW through other sources.

The government also decided that all lights at government installations would be halved to save minimum of 11MW. No unauthorised official below BS-20 would be entitles to use air conditioner. The authorised official too can use it after 11 am. Similarly all streetlights would be halved to save 314MW while power to billboards and commercial decorative lighting will be cut off to save 70MW.

The weekly two day off for industry will be staggered to save another 150MW a day. Tubewells will not operate at peak hours from 7 pm to 11 pm protecting 250MW. All shops are to be closed at 8 pm apart from bakeries, pharmacies and clinics. Marriage halls are allowed a function only for three hours at a time and provincial governments will decide about their timings.

Further, as part of immediate and short term measures, 183 MMCF natural gas would be provided to power sector to generate 740 MW, i.e. 240MW through Guddu, 200MW through PEPCO and 300MW through other generation companies.

By December 2010 the country would have an additional 1310MW and includes five rental power plants besides a plant from Turkey. In view of the country's eight per cent growth, the requirement of electricity would increase to 36,000MW in year 2015 and 1,14,000MW in 2014.

Moreover, Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif while addressing provincial convention of traders arranged for consultation with the business community for checking energy crisis, said that there is a need for working on war footing for overcoming energy crisis in the interest of development and prosperity of Pakistan.

He said that no project for energy generation was initiated during the ten years' rule of the dictator due to which the country has plunged in darkness and future generations will never forgive him for this criminal negligence. He said that practicable measures will have to be taken for coping with the challenge of energy deficit and provision of electricity to trade and agriculture sectors. He ordered withdrawal of all cases registered during the protest demonstrations against load shedding in the province within 24 hours.

The Chief Minister said that energy shortage is leaving a negative impact on national economy and all segments of society including entrepreneurs and labourers, farmers and students have risen in protest. He said that this situation is unprecedented in the country as not only labourers are being deprived of their means of livelihood but export sector is also being affected. He said that in this perspective, it is the right of the people to protest against prolonged load shedding and the government will have to take remedial measures without further loss of time. He said that effective steps are needed to calm down the anger and agony of the masses.

He said that he had issued clear instructions to the administration to exercise restraint over the protest of the people, however, unpleasant incidents at some places are regrettable. He said that he has forcefully represented the case of Punjab in the energy conference presided over by the Prime Minister. He said that energy crisis cannot be overcome overnight. He said that Pakistan is facing a shortfall of about 5000 to 6000-megawatt electricity, which has resulted in serious problems to the people of all walks of life as well as adversely affected various sectors.

He said that had Gen Musharraf not displayed criminal negligence and started construction of Bhasha Dam in 2002, 4000 megawatts electricity would have become available to the country.

Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif further said that various projects for generation of additional energy should have been started during last two years. He said that there is still capacity of production of 1300 megawatts electricity but these projects are closed due to non-availability of gas. He said that there are 74 sugar mills in the country and had the projects for generation of energy from sugarcane trash been initiated expeditiously, 1500 to 2000 megawatts electricity could have been produced. He said that there is a need for short, medium and long term polices for overcoming energy crisis and under the short-term policy, maximum energy will have to be saved and Punjab government has already taken a number of steps in this regard.

He said that he is against two holidays a week as the people are already facing poverty and situation of education and health sectors is also not satisfactory. He said that though he is against two holidays in principle but in case of emergency, implementation of this decision for a short period of two or three months can help conserve 800 to 850 megawatt electricity for trade and industrial sectors. He said that Punjab government has evolved a comprehensive plan for energy conservation and the Prime Minister will also make announcement regarding saving of electricity.

He said that Pakistan has been blessed with precious resources of coal and water but it is unfortunate that efforts are being made for acquiring energy from rental power plants. He said that every effort will have to be made for generation of energy from coal, hydel power and that raw material available in the country. He said that advisory meeting of traders has also been convened to seek their proposals regarding energy conservation. He said that collective efforts will have to be made for coping with this challenge. Representatives of traders' organizations also gave their proposals for energy conservation.

Independent analysts believe that the government has shown will for the first time to provide relief to the people from ill effects of load shedding. Had such measures been taken soon after coming into power by the government, the situation today would have been altogether different, they said.