Over the last several years, it appeared that Pakistan was moving back to the Stone Age where people lived in darkness and obscurity, thanks to pervasive power outages and breakdowns in electricity supply. The nation went through the worst-ever energy crisis in its history and life in all its manifestations had been but a misery. The main reason for intermittent power outages was the increasing gap in supply and demand for electricity, but why necessary steps were not taken to bridge this gap is a mystery. Surely, the answer lies in the incompetence and indifference of the rulers.
The PML-N government has attempted to address the energy crisis ever since assuming office in 2013. It initiated short- and long-term measures to break the vicious cycle. To begin with, it immediately retired circular debt worth Rs480 billion, resulting in an added 1,752MW to the national grid, thereby providing prompt relief to the people. At the same time, the government resumed construction of projects such as Nandipur and Neelum-Jhelum, and also initiated new projects to resolve the crisis permanently. It is estimated that the total power portfolio presently being pursued will produce 43,127MW of electricity by 2018-19. This will not only make Pakistan self-sufficient, but also generate surplus power for export. The energy projects related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will also contribute towards ridding the country of intermittent power outages.
In this light, the year 2015 can be seen as marking the beginning of a new epoch with power outages being reduced by 50 per cent while being completely eliminated in the industrial sector, recoveries have increased by Rs51 billion, a reduction of line losses has resulted in savings of a record Rs10 billion, there have been additional earnings of Rs61 billion as well as a sizeable reduction in power tariffs.
The Ministry of Water and Power has been instrumental in bringing about key improvements in the power sector. However, even with all the improvements that have taken place, it is important to recognise that the energy crisis is still alive and the drive towards its permanent eradication must never come to rest. Unabated efforts should continue to complete all the ongoing and envisaged projects in time, giving priority to non-traditional, inexpensive and environmentally-friendly sources of energy. Governance within the power sector should be given the most attention as it is the driving force that can make all the difference. Besides, a vigilant monitoring and evaluation system needs to be put in place to prevent the power sector from relapsing into its previous hazardous state.
With urgent attention being given to devising prudent plans and better management, the gap between the supply and demand for power has substantially narrowed down, leading to reduced hours of power outages. This has afforded much relief to our energy-starved people. The progress made thus far by the PML-N government provides reason for reassurance. One would earnestly hope that the achievements of 2015 form the basis for a complete resolution to the energy crisis. Given the present pace of successes, it is hoped that Pakistan will be rid of the nagging problem of power outages before the incumbent government’s term comes to an end.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2016.