Govt wants president to defuse energy row with Punjab, K-P

President to be asked to impress upon provinces to implement national plan

Zafar Bhutta January 11, 2023


The coalition government has decided to approach President Arif Alvi to impress upon Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governments, to implement the national energy conservation plan approved by the federal cabinet last month.

The federal government unveiled a series of measures in the plan aimed at saving energy and reducing the country’s import bill. However, K-P and Punjab – both governments by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) –had opposed the measures.

During a discussion in the cabinet, a query was raised about whether the K-P and the Punjab governments would be consulted. The ministers were informed that the president would be requested to use his office to bring the two provinces on board, besides input would be sought from the chief secretaries of those provinces.

The Power Division presented various energy conservation measures to the federal cabinet on October 11, 2022. The cabinet, after consideration, constituted a committee to fine-tune these measures, which held five sessions to identify, evaluate, and strategise potential energy efficiency and conservation measures.

Subsequently, a detailed plan and implementation strategy was presented to the federal cabinet on December 20, 2022. But since some measures required active support from the provincial governments, the cabinet directed the Committee, led by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif to continue its consultation with the provinces and apprise them of the energy conservation initiatives, their impact and the actions required by the provinces.

When consultations were held with Sindh and Balochistan, both the provincial governments were very forthcoming but sought time to hold meetings with traders, hotel and wedding hall owners, and other businesses, likely to be impacted by the proposed energy conservation measures, according to sources.

However, K-P and Punjab provinces showed resistance to implementing the proposed measures. Underscoring the exigency of introducing the energy conservation measures, the government emphasised that it was no more a choice but an unavoidable necessity as the economy could not sustain the enormous fuel import bill.

A cabinet member said that a decision had yet to be taken as to whether the option of 20% of staff working from home on a rotational basis throughout the week was to be adopted or the proposal to declare Friday as a work-from-home-day.

An opposing view was that the option of work-from-home was incongruent with our work culture and would negatively impact the performance of government offices. Instead, the cabinet members suggested that directions should be issued to all ministries and divisions to curtail their electricity bills by 30%.

A cabinet member highlighted that the dynamics of urban centres were different from rural towns, where it would be much easier to effectuate early closure of businesses. He underscored the importance of developing consensus with all stakeholders for the effective implementation of the energy conservation measures.

Other suggestions given by the cabinet members, included the solarisation of public educational institutions and metro stations, online classes at public schools to reduce electricity consumption and harnessing wind energy potential in Sindh and Balochistan.

Some of the cabinet members were of the view that online classes were not feasible because it would put the students in remote and rural areas, which lacked internet and electricity coverage, at a disadvantage. The cabinet also deferred the proposal of the work-from-home for the time being.

On a query as to how much savings was expected in case of working from home on Friday, the figure of $271 million was given -- $16 million on electricity and $255 million on fuel consumption. On the occasion, the Power Division was also directed to make a presentation to the cabinet on wind energy projects.


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