The Federal Minister for water and power Khwaja Asif after a meeting on energy chaired by Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif announced that there shall be no loadshedding at Iftar and Sehr while the industries in the month of Ramazan would need to do away with the night shift and instead work on a two-shift basis as the domestic sector will get top priority. This promise is repeated yearly prior to the advent of the holy month. But alas, it does not happen. The same goes for prices of favourite eatables whose consumption rise several folds during Ramazan. Shifting of electricity load depends on transmission and distribution system already in place and there is a difference in the size of transformers and cables used in different consumers – industrial, commercial and domestic.
This is a technical subject and it requires technical input and solutions. Raising power generation – irrespective of the cost – based on efficiency of the generation may be absorbed by the governments since ultimately the consumer or taxpayer would pay for it but this is indeed a sad reflection of the gross mismanagement in this sector which has become an Achilles heel for successive governments. Putting blame on hot weather may be partly true. However, it is possible to have uninterrupted power supply in more hotter climates than ours. But one needs to plan for it which we have not since it involves huge capital expenditure.
This newspaper criticised the village electrification policy planned in the mid-eighties. Dr Mahbub-ul-Haq then said: “Urbanities do not understand what a single light bulb and a fan would do to the rural folks.” However Business Recorder was of the opinion: “We do not have the resources to sustain such a policy”. Further, every parliamentarian would like to have electricity, natural gas and telephone in his/her constituency. And, parliamentarians would be reduced to local councilors. This has indeed happened. And, the system has collapsed. Except for telecommunications – thanks to development of technology of cellular phones and allowing cellular companies from the private sector based on backbone sharing and toll concept, we as a nation, by and large, are still struggling with persistent energy shortages.
We have wasted domestic natural gas by keeping its price low compared to other competing fuels. And, every sector wants priority for natural gas. Users of natural gas are fighting each other for the cheapest fuel and its affordability has now also become a contentious issue.
In the electricity sector despite tall claims there is not much to show for on the ground. Promises to fix the energy mix is yet to materialize. T&D system needs to be revamped as it has become obsolete. Our cash flow problems do not allow monetary space for maintenance – let alone new investment. Machines need to be serviced and parts need to be changed with regularity. It looks that such a scenario is meant for a different country. Population continues to rise. So does the demand. The gap between generation and peak load persists. It looks like this government has its priorities wrong. Jobs and shelter are needed first by people. Once human beings become used to amenities like electricity, piped natural gas and transportation they have a different outlook towards their lives or standards of living. Only food, health, education and safety have a clear precedence over these amenities.
The text appeared as Editorial of Business Recorder today.