Causes and Consequences of Energy Crisis in Pakistan

Causes and Consequences of

Energy Crisis in


Energy crisis is defined as a shortfall in, or scarcity of, energy production. It is the imbalance between demand and supply of energy. If the resources of producing energy in a country are ample and the distribution system is also efficient to meet the demands, the country will be prosperous because a proper production and use of energy leads to development. However, if demand, production and supply are incongruous, the country falls into a deep pit of energy crisis.
Pakistan is going through an alarming state of energy crisis. Energy resources in the country are depleting with every tick of the clock; however, there is not just one aspect to be blamed for it. Poor governance, an unwilling and corrupt political system, economic downfall, lack of public awareness and conventional methods of energy-generation are some of the causes behind energy crisis in Pakistan. Keeping in view the current scenario, willingness and sincere efforts on the part of the government, using alternate means of energy-production, and spreading awareness among the public can be fruitful in eradicating the energy crisis in Pakistan.
The major sources of energy production in Pakistan are coal, gas and oil (non-renewable sources). The important concern in this matter is: for how long these natural resources will be sufficient to fulfil the energy needs of the country? Not only Pakistan but the whole world is extracting maximum energy from natural resources without considering the fact that a time will come when the world will reach a maximum rate of energy extraction, called “The Peak,” after which the natural resources will decline drastically. Without any surprise, the time has already arrived. According to the World Oil Statistics, the world has about 47 years of oil left at the current consumption level. On a national level, with the rise in living standards, the consumption of electrical energy is increasing exponentially. With time, as the demand for energy is increasing, the supply is decreasing as well.
The current energy crisis in Pakistan can be traced back to the end of the 20th century. Back in the 1970s, a huge energy crisis was warded off by building Mangla and Tarbela dams and making them operational. These projects resulted in a good amount of hydro-driven energy generation. Their operation capably met the demands of energy at that time. In the 1980s – an era of revival of economic growth – there came a rise in energy demand but the supply couldn’t consummate with that. Moreover, with increase in population and urbanization, the government failed to generate as much energy as it was needed. Pakistan’s first-ever Energy Conservation Program was started in 1994 which shows that energy-generation was never a priority of those in power. Even at times (June 2012), the shortfall reached 3500 MW that was more than 40% of national demand.
Pakistan is rich in natural resources of energy, such as coal; however, the increase in consumption in domestic domain is contributing to its depletion. Moreover, Oil and Gas Development Corporation Limited (OGDCL) predicts that indigenous oil reserves in Pakistan will be exhausted by 2025. It also predicts that the country will run out of domestic sources of natural gas by 2030. It shows that the country has gone bankrupt and the total disaster is right around the corner, if immediate measures are not taken.
Bad governance and mismanagement of resources are the key challenges to energy-generation in Pakistan. Due to inadequate planning, poor supervision, inept governance, and lack of proper monitoring, the gap between demand and supply of energy is widening dangerously. In other words, energy generation is not balanced with its demand for positive progress. There is theft and corruption in the energy sector. Pakistan is not only facing domestic level theft but commercial and industrial level theft as well. Similarly, there is no coordination and clear, comprehensive and integrated energy strategy.
Another root cause of energy crisis lies in the appointment of incompetent people. Offices in the energy sector are considered the most desirable ones because they produce sizable profit for their holders. Other than these causes, delaying tactics and hesitation in investment in the energy sector also lead to energy crisis.
Political instability is also one of the reasons for the energy crisis in Pakistan. Since its creation in 1947, the political graph of Pakistan has never got smooth. Politics in Pakistan has never gone through a stable road. For this reason, the energy sector is affected by the changing interests of the changing regimes. Energy generation projects started in the government of one political party hardly get completed in the period of another party’s rule. In this way, the previous projects are either ignored or called unnecessary and new ones are started to see the same fate in future. It suggests that there is political unwillingness to improve the energy sector in Pakistan to balance the factors of demand and supply.
Also, politicization of a project of national interest causes huge damage to it. The case of Kalabagh dam is not unknown to any. Leaders are unwilling to take unconventional steps and unpopular political decisions to make changes that would ultimately lead to improvement. Instead of uniting on one point that would be beneficial for national gain, there are divided interests of different political regimes and other influential forces. It clearly shows that the energy crisis in Pakistan is deeply connected to political will.
Energy generation in the country is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Due to the huge population and current wave of industrialization, these sources are not fulfilling the existing energy needs of the country. Huge dependency on fossil fuels not only causes an energy crisis but also has a burden on the national economy. It leads to different environmental hazards like the greenhouse effect, CO2 emissions, global warming and irregular weather patterns. Moreover, natural resources are being exhausted due to overuse of fossil fuels. In this way, the energy crisis in Pakistan is due to the dependency of energy structure on thermal resources including coal, oil and natural gas which are expensive as well as are under huge pressure of shortage.
Pakistan has installed generation capacity that is more than the demand for energy but it is still facing the worst energy crisis and one of its reasons is power losses in transmission lines. Due to the high resistance of material against current flow, heat is produced that increases temperature of the transmission medium.
Insofar as the consequences of energy crisis in Pakistan, they are many. It has severely affected the economic, agricultural, and industrial sectors of the country. One of its direct effects is the high cost of electricity. In Pakistan, a large part of the past decade confronted excessive load-shedding due to non-availability of affordable generation capacity and inefficient transmission and distribution services. With the instalment of substantial projects of electricity-generation during the last few years, the availability of electricity, though, has improved significantly, the cost of electricity for end consumers has increased manifolds. According to the State of Industry Report 2020, there are various reasons for the high cost of electricity like high transmission and dispatch (T&D) losses, low recovery, circular debt, huge capacity payments, currency devaluation, fuel cost, under-utilization of efficient power plants, etc.; all arising from the energy crisis.
Economic sector is affected by the energy crisis because of less productivity and power outbreaks that cause unusual termination of operations. Extraordinary inflation rates due to the energy crisis have also affected the economic sector, and ultimately the public.
Agricultural sector is also greatly affected by the energy crisis because of the loss in productivity process. Most of the agricultural operations are electric in nature now, such as tube well; therefore, power shortage interrupts agricultural activities. Similarly, production of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides is also negatively affected. Pakistan being an agricultural country cannot afford a decline in this sector.
Similarly, in the industrial sector, frequent and long power breakouts decrease productivity rate. This situation is repelling investors because they prefer to shift their businesses from Pakistan to other countries, such as Bangladesh. If the current crisis prolongs, there will be hardly any investment in Pakistan’s industrial sector in future. In Karachi, due to load shedding, industrialists are facing losses to the tune of billions of rupees as the production activities are halted.
Energy crisis in Pakistan has given birth to many social evils as well, such as crimes, frustration, intolerance and theft. It is a humanitarian crisis. As electricity has become a basic and major necessity of today’s life, blackouts have caused severe intolerance in people. People have got involved in many crimes, such as protests against WAPDA that result in killing and injuring people as well as damaging properties. Daily-wagers have been greatly affected by this issue, due to which there is a rise in the rate of disputes and even murders.
When industries are closed, no new units are opening, people are not getting salaries, and no investments are coming in, the rate of unemployment is set to increases. Rising inflation leads to an increase in poverty rate that worsens life conditions for people. It not only affects masses physically and mentally but also portrays a negative picture of the country to the outside world. In this way, the tourism sector faces adverse impacts.
According to IPRI (2015), energy demand in Pakistan is increasing by more than 9% annually. If the rate stays the same, the energy demand will increase 8-fold by 2030 and 20-fold by 2050. Therefore, the country needs to shift to other safe options of energy-generation before the situation worsens and it gets impossible to reverse it back to normal, or at least a safe survival level. One of the remedies for the energy crisis in Pakistan is to start utilizing renewable sources of energy. Among them, solar energy has the potential to tackle energy challenges. According to the International Energy Agency (2019), global capacity of solar PV had reached 402GW by the end of 2017. It will further expand to almost 580GW and lead the renewable electricity capacity growth. Geographically, Pakistan lies in the Sun Belt and receives massive amounts of sunlight all through the year. To resolve the current energy crisis, it is very important to utilize the existing solar energy resources. Government should also provide funds and research facilities at public and individual levels so as to start the production of energy from renewable sources, such as wind and biomass.
Similarly, proper management of resources through good governance and strong political will are the key factors in eradicating the energy crisis from Pakistan. Energy-generation needs to be the top priority of the policymakers. Pakistan can no longer afford negligence in the energy sector. It is crucial at this time to appoint competent people in this crucial sector and initiate new projects to fill the gap between demand and supply of energy.
Another important remedy of the energy crisis is to raise public awareness. Theft on the domestic level is one of the huge contributors to the worsening of energy crisis. To control power theft, it is important to formulate strict laws and implement them fully. Thieves must be punished severely so that it can be set as a benchmark for others. Government needs also to improve the transmission and distribution system to stop power losses. Also, it is the responsibility of the people at large to shift to energy-efficient products, such as replacing old bulbs with energy-savers or LED lights.
To conclude, Pakistan has enough installed capacity that can meet the present demand, only if it would operate without interruption to yield maximum output. Energy policymakers in Pakistan can play a huge role in this matter if they unite on one point to devise a clear strategy. If the elected leaders of Pakistan have a genuine desire to take the country towards betterment and development, the end of the energy crisis will be the first step in this regard. However, if this chain of personal interests and failed policies keeps intact, the energy crisis will soon become an energy calamity.

The writer is pursuing her BS English from Islamia College, Peshawar.

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