National policy for energy By M. Asif - Thursday, March 10, 2011

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RECENTLY, there have been numerous calls from various political parties for a national consensus on major issues. This is welcome for the need is to take a cohesive stand on the challenges the country faces.
In this respect, the energy crisis is one of the biggest challenges Pakistan faces today. It demands a broader national consensus. The issue should be on the list of priorities for the subjects to be discussed at any conference with national representation. In fact, the energy crisis is too big a problem to be addressed without concrete consensus and demands a national energy agenda.
While the energy crisis continues to pound the socio-economic fabric of Pakistan, both at the micro and macro level, the initiatives taken so far by the concerned authorities have not shown the ability to arrest the problem. The crisis cannot be addressed unless one of the most devastating and chronic issues — the short-sightedness of successive governments — is not addressed. It is imperative that the authorities concerned realise the importance of sustainability of an energy agenda.
A usual problem in Pakistan`s official circles is the absence of vision and a sense of responsibility. The energy history of the country reveals that, barring a couple of exceptions, no government has served this sector well. The short-sightedness of governments over the last three decades has had a detrimental impact on the energy sector. They have failed to look beyond their tenure in office.
Moreover, a project-oriented approach rather than a goal-oriented one is visible. The focus has been on ad hoc and quick-fix solutions. There are no trends of long-term and sustainable planning. Value-engineered and cost-effective solutions are unheard of in the corridors of power.
Energy projects in general require rigorous planning and huge investment. Unfortunately, reluctance to develop sustainable energy projects has been the main reason behind the current energy crisis. This attitude has to change if the gigantic energy challenges the country is facing is to be adequately addressed.
Two fundamental requirements towards finding a sustainable solution to our energy problems are the development of a vibrant and coherent energy policy and the stringent implementation of the policy.
There have actually been several energy policies in the country over the years. Unfortunately, none have been able to deliver. The country is yet to see a comprehensive and visionary energy policy. The energy policies produced so far have been quite narrow in scope. The famous 1994 power policy, for example, focused mainly on independent power production, ignoring other energy resources and technologies.
In much the same way, the 2006 renewable energy policy, as the name implies, focused on renewable technologies alone. There have also been hydel policies and oil and gas policies. But all have fallen short of encouraging a robust and coherent approach to national energy issues. The need is to formulate an integrated and comprehensive energy policy that covers all major aspects including oil and gas, hydropower, coal, nuclear power, renewable energy, energy conservation and management, energy security and energy trading.
While comprehending the true nature and intensity of the challenges, the policy should also meticulously explore the range of available opportunities to deliver both short-term and medium- to long-term solutions. In an era of globalisation and free-market economies, the national energy policy must take regional and global trends into consideration.
Meaningful implementation of whatever energy policies there have been is a major issue. It is not just a lack of commitment on the part of the pertinent authorities but also political instability that has caused governments to change frequently. Poor implementation of policies deteriorates the confidence of foreign as well as local investors.
The main point of a well-thought-out energy policy should lie in its long-term approach — it should be designed to cover at least 25 years, obviously incorporating periodic reviews that would enable decision-makers to correct any lapses. It can only be accomplished by containing a certain degree of rigidity as well as flexibility — the goals and targets, for example, must be categorical while the route taken to accomplish these could be flexible.
The policy should be framed with all stakeholders on board, most importantly the mainstream political parties. Other political forces with provincial or regional manifestoes and advocacy groups also need to be taken into confidence. Inter-provincial harmony and agreement has to be at the heart of the policy.
Once agreed upon, the designed policy should be given constitutional protection so that future governments do not jeopardise it for the sake of vested political interests as has been the case in the past. Such a move would be logical when one sees the nature of investment required to secure the energy future of the country.
According to the Medium Term Development Framework (2005–10) of the Government of Pakistan the demand for electricity generation will increase by a factor of eight, from 19,540MW in 2005 to 163,000MW by 2030. n
In view of the slow economic growth rate, even assuming a third of the figure above, an additional capacity of 48,000MW would be required. Energy technologies vary considerably in their economics. However, assuming a benchmark price bracket of $1m to $1.5m per megawatt, Pakistan would need a gigantic investment of $48bn to $72bn by 2030 which can only be assured by unwavering commitment to a strong national policy on the part of all stakeholders.
The writer is a lecturer at the Glasgow Caledonian University, UK. He is the author of Energy Crisis in Pakistan: Origins, Challenges and Sustainable Solutions.

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