Energy conservation measures

Editorial April 21, 2010

The government of Pakistan has become extraordinarily good at taking stop-gap measures to provide short-term solutions to long-term problems.

A classic case is the recently announced plan to curb energy use as a means of controlling the chronic energy crisis. For the next six months, the country will have a two-day weekend in addition to re-instating daylight savings time. It is not immediately clear as to when daylight savings time is due to start and an announcement by the government to that effect would be helpful.

That the government has decided to take measures to reduce its own energy consumption as well as that of the rest of the country is welcome news, though some of the policies announced were either unclear or unenforceable.

For instance, how exactly does the government plan on enforcing the rule against business centres being open after sunset? Will it simply turn off their power supply for the entire night? And if so, how will that affect the service sector, which constitutes over half the economy? The government also said that it will force the industrial sector to shut down production at least one day a week. How will that impact economic growth? For that matter, what will it do to the government’s revenues? Is anybody asking these questions at all? The reality is that these measures do not seem to be very well thought out.

They are akin to stopping the bleeding in one’s arm by shutting down the heart. Technically, it will work to stop the bleeding but only by causing far larger problems. The real solution will come when the government clears the last bit of the inter-corporate circular debt which has brought the energy sector to a grinding halt.

Also, something needs to be done to reduce the high transmission and line losses experienced by the distribution companies. The ministry of finance announced that it plans on doing just that within a matter of days. One can only hope that they mean it this time.

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