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Pakistan has been facing worst energy crisis, says an expert

Jan 07, 2014

The renewable energy sources remain underutilized despite being cost effective and less hazardous for the environment, says Rafi Amir-ud-Din from the School of Economics, International Islamic University. Following is an excerpt from a paper presented at Conference on ‘Energy Security and Economic Sustainability: The Way Forward’ held at Islamabad.

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Islamabad: Pakistan has been facing an extreme energy crisis which partly stems from its dire economic conditions. In the coming years, there is expected to be a sudden surge in the demand for energy which should ideally be fulfilled with indigenous energy production. As some types of energy production are associated with extreme adverse effects on environment, it is imperative that our future energy mix should be environmentally least adverse subject to various economic and non-economic constraints.

Long before energy crisis became an important national issue with the potential to significantly affect the outcome of general elections of 2013, it had been brewing for many years. The looming crisis of depleting non-renewable energy sources combined with a feeble economy has lent a new urgency to the search for an energy mix which is sustainable, economically viable and environmentally less hazardous. Fossil fuels with their known adverse environmental impacts dominate the current energy mix of Pakistan. The renewable energy sources remain underutilized despite being cost effective and less hazardous for the environment.

A substantial amount of literature has highlighted various dimensions of existing energy sources in Pakistan such as their environmental impact, their sustainability and their efficiency. However, not many studies have taken a comparative view of available energy sources.

We not only need to know about the hazardous energy sources; we also need to know how much hazardous a particular energy source is. We also may like to know the exact cost of all renewable energy sources and precise efficiency rate of fossil fuels. We may want to know the exact location of the potential for wind energy, but we also need to know how feasible it is to develop the infrastructure for wind energy along the coastal areas in view of the worsening security situation in those areas. Similarly a long term energy policy cannot ignore the potential of hydropower in Pakistan without factoring in Pakistan's relationship with India and internal controversies over the large dams.

Pakistan has been facing the worst energy crisis in recent years. The issue of IPPs and RPPs and corruption scandals have considerably dented the ability of the power sector to meet Pakistan‘s energy needs. Electricity theft from the distribution system is yet another long-standing problem. Pakistan loses electricity because of theft worth Rs. 100 billion on an annual basis. The circular debt issue further aggravates the tottering energy system. The circular debt reached as high as US$2.5 billion on June 30, 2009 (Trimble et al., 2011).

It may be noted that Pakistan‘s energy needs are very modest. Pakistan ranked the 36th lowest country in the world in 2012 in terms of energy consumption with an average per capita energy use of 43 W which is one seventh of the world average (EIA, 2013). There are wide gaps between the limited installed capacity and the net generation which is increasing over time.

Before energy crisis became an important national issue with the potential to significantly affect the outcome of general elections of 2013, it had been brewing for a long time. During the years 2008-2012, depressed growth in the energy sector set the tone for what had to come later.

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