A plan to save electricity

Editorial April 23, 2010

The prime minister, at the end of the three-day National Energy Crisis Summit, has announced a plan that the government hopes will result in a 33 per cent reduction in loadshedding by saving 500 MW of power a day. People everywhere in the country no doubt hope the measures work. The planned review of implementation every fortnight is intended to ensure this. A glimmer of light can be seen in the distance; there is some sense of optimism that something is being done to address a crisis that has crippled life for almost everyone.

This in itself is an achievement given that perceptions about governance are almost as significant as the actual measures adopted by the set-up in Islamabad. The new energy policy envisages the closure of markets by 8 pm, a five-day work week at government offices and a 50 per cent reduction in the use of lights at official residences used by the president, prime minister, governors and chief ministers. In considering these, we must keep in view that very similar steps were announced in 2008, months after the PPP government took charge of office, as a means of reducing the power shortfall. They did not work. This is one reason why we face a significantly worsened situation today.

But there is reason to believe that since then the managers of national affairs have learnt some lessons. The convening of a high-powered summit and the effort to involve all the chief ministers in drawing up a strategy is one indication that this has indeed been the case. Certainly, cooperation at all levels is required to get anywhere with the elaborate power plan, and the careful creation of consensus was wise. However, this is at best a stop-gap measure. There has to be planning for the long term and this should involve a significant expansion in overall generation capacity, streamlining of the distribution companies and a real reduction in their line losses.

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