Pakistan Observer

Energy crisis, causes & remedies

Shanzeh Iqbal

Friday, June 11, 2010 - Pakistan has been suffering from an energy crisis for about half a decade now. The power crisis is proving to be unbearable. The sad state of affairs is that despite having enormous renewable resources of energy, Pakistan has to import a huge amount of hydrocarbons from abroad to meet its energy needs. As recently as 2001, the country had 4,000 megawatts of excess power capacity. Today unfortunately the situation has gained threatening prospects. According to a research most of the high enthalpy geothermal resources of the world lie within the seismic belts passing through Pakistan. Pakistan has a history of geotectonic events. Tectonic plates are segments of earth’s lithosphere, hard rocky outer shell. Hence this geothermal energy can be exploited in a better sense of the term. The major resources of energy are oil, gas, petroleum products, coal, nuclear, solar, biomass and wind energy.

Let us chalk out the reasons for shortage of energy. Lopsided priorities, poor management and lack of accountability can be denoted as the reasons for dearth of energy in Pakistan. The number of consumers of electricity are now increased owing to the rapid urbanization process. The facility of electricity is now provided to the remote villages. We waste a lot of energy, about 15 to 20 percent through poor distribution system. Industrial, transport and domestic sectors are the three important consumers of energy. It is assumed that a misplaced use of energy is rampant in industries which need to be curtailed.

Few years back Pakistan used to get half of its electricity from hydel power and remaining from thermal generation. However there is a limit to the extent of exploitation of hydel resources and thermal power plants due to environmental and other concerns. Modalities for overcoming the energy crisis are multifold. To meet the challenge there is a dire need to go to the alternate sources of energy. Some people suggest that process of converting coal into product gas underground can be a good alternate source of energy. Technically this process is called as underground coal classification. Through this the underground deposit of coal is treated with controlled fire. Gradually the coal turns into gas. The largest coal reserves of Pakistan exist in Thar. There this source can be encashed.

Besides coal, the renewable energy as biomass has solutions to our problems. Biomass, material derived from plants or animals, includes wastes, agricultural residues and garbage. It is suggested that subsidies and tax concessions must be provided for importing machinery for establishing biogas power plants in Pakistan. It can prove to be a great source of energy for us as Pakistan is an agricultural country. Come to solar energy panels, though initial cost of installing solar panels is comparatively high but through them the highest levels of efficiency can be reached. I visited Balochistan recently and was really surprised to see the great solar potential there. It is not only the valley of minerals but it has a lot of wind and solar energy, having a scattered habitat and ample sunshine. But to my utter dismay the number of solar panels installed there were very few. Some important advantages which favour the use of solar energy use in Pakistan include low operational and maintenance cost, environment friendly dimension etc.

Similarly the wind energy is also in excess and we can harness this energy in a much more effective way. Wind can be utilized to produce electricity at the coastal areas. If power plants are set up driven by the wind energy along the coastline and this venture is handed over to foreign investors, the results can be quite satisfactory. Manufacture of wind generators can be made indigenously. Still other sources apart from hydel and thermal which can meet the growing demand nuclear energy can also overcome the energy needs. Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission has developed a large infrastructure to manufacture equipment for power but even then we are not able to make considerable progress in the nuclear field.

More and more nuclear reactors for power generation must be built. Similarly, hot climatic conditions of some areas of upper Sindh and Southern Punjab may prove to be a source of solar energy. We have to devise bold and concrete ways on a war footing to overcome the electricity deficit coupled with an instant change in attitude at the earliest. The Quaid-i-Azam said: “Let us mobilize all our resources in a systematic and organized way and tackle the grave issues that confront us with grim determination and discipline worthy of a great nation.” Therefore the consolidation of the domestic resource mobilization is a call of the time. A collective national effort is needed to face the challenge .Prompt measures need to be taken by the government. The belated response will only add up to more problems.

One other suggestion is that the existing thermal power plants running on expensive imported furnace oil can be converted into natural gas and afterwards to coal. The government can go for establishing a government body for fixing targets for development of power sectors. Ways must also be devised to stop power theft besides transmission and distribution losses. The long transmission lines connecting grid with hydel stations are faced with transmission losses. These hydel stations are located mostly in the north of the country while thermal units are mainly installed in the centre and southern areas of Pakistan.

Political controversies relating to Kalabagh dam must be resolved. In this connection seminars and media can play a good role. If there is a need the modifications in design may also be suggested.
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