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National energy policy: a dilemma

ENERGY is vital for sustainable development of a nation, be it social, economic or environmental. In the past decade its consumption has increased globally and is projected to increase by 33 per cent from 2010 to 2030.

Thus most countries have developed policies for achieving targets set in their respective energy policies.

For example, the national energy policy of the UK sets out four key goals: to put the country on a path to cut carbon dioxide emissions by some 60 per cent by about 2050, with real progress by 2020; to maintain reliable energy supplies; to promote competitive markets at home and abroad, helping to raise the rate of sustainable economic growth and to improve productivity; and to ensure that every home is heated.

The strategy document, Energy White Paper 2007, demonstrates how these goals will be achieved. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is responsible for the delivery of these goals. Performance against these goals is being regularly monitored and shared with all stakeholders, including the public.

Now we look at Pakistan’s energy policy, which was launched by the government in response to growing power shortages. It held a couple of energy conferences and finally announced a national energy policy on April 22, 2010.

Unfortunately, the policy does not address core issues and is unable to set up long-term goals to overcome the energy crisis. Instead, it sets out a short-term goal of reducing electricity consumption by 500MWs by adopting the following measures: The official weekend to be extended from one to two days;

Neon signs and decorative lights will be banned; power will be cut to government offices by 50 per cent and airconditioners will only be allowed to be switched on after 11am; street markets will be asked to close early.

Moreover, commercial centres except drug stores will be closed at 8pm and wedding celebrations will be limited to three hours; the government will pay off its $1.38bn debt to power producers to allow them to pay fuel suppliers.

Further, power supply to commercial capital Karachi will be cut by 300 megawatts to allow fairer distribution of power to the remaining parts of the country. Tube wells will not be allowed to operate from 7pm to 11pm.

Now the question is: can this be called a national energy policy of a country?

No, not at all. It is absolutely bizarre to call this a national energy policy. In fact, this defines the limited vision of our policymakers.

A country where the majority of its electricity comes from limping fossil fuel power plants and where there is widespread power theft requires a proper national energy policy and a roadmap for meeting its current and future energy demands.

Energy reduction, generation, distribution and supply targets must be set for the next decades and these should not be limited to only electricity. The policy must demonstrate the methods and the budget required to achieve these targets. The performance against targets must be regularly monitored and shared with the public via different media.

Unless there exists a proper national energy policy and a dedicated, skilled and honest team/department for the delivery of set targets, the ghost of the energy crisis will never fly out of Pakistan.


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