A three-day national conference will begin in Islamabad on Sunday, under the leadership of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, to consider measures to overcome the chronic energy crisis as the nation heads into the power-intensive summer season.
Among the measures under consideration will be two weekly holidays for the public sector as opposed to one, implementing daylight savings time by moving clocks ahead one hour, and shutting down commercial areas at sunset.
Hosted by the federal water and power ministry, the marathon brainstorming gathering is set to have participation from representatives of all four provinces, including chief ministers.
The government has already promised to implement the proposals agreed upon during the conference in which experts from the energy sector are also expected to give their input as observers.
The energy shortfall in Pakistan has already crossed 3,000 megawatts with the peak summer season still to come, when domestic and commercial consumers begin heavy utilisation of energy-intensive air-conditioning.
Officials at the Water and Power Ministry said here on Saturday that they were anticipating that their suggestions of the two-day weekend and daylight savings time to be endorsed by the provinces. They were also hopeful that the conference may also consider the payment of a major chunk out of the inter-corporate circular debt – estimated at Rs300 billion now – which has financially crippled the energy sector.
However, experience with past energy conferences gives them some cause for scepticism. Decisions taken at last year’s conference – such as paying off Rs116 billion of the circular debt and ensuring closures of commercial areas by sunset – were not implemented, resulting in only partial energy savings.
Last year, the prime minister had anticipated savings of up to an average of 500 megawatts of electricity a day. However, power ministry officials said that a later assessment showed that, due to an incomplete implementation of the conservation proposals, only 200MW were conserved.
The official plan comes at the time when public protests against load shedding have taken on the shape of riots.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2011.
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