Missing out

Dr. M. Asif

PAKISTAN continues to pay a huge price for ignoring energy conservation. The whole energy equation — take the case of electricity that involves generation, transmission and distribution (T&D), and consumption — is full of losses and leaks. Yet improving the productivity and efficiency of the energy equation has never been a priority with policymakers responsible for coming up with national energy frameworks.

This is one of the most important aspects of energy frameworks across the world. The modern understanding is that a unit of energy saved is greater than a unit generated in the context of production, transportation, and T&D losses. International trends towards energy saving can be highlighted from the 20-20-20 directive of the European Union that demands all member states to ensure a 20 per cent reduction in energy consumption by 2020 through improved energy efficiency.

Energy conservation measures can typically be categorised into three types. Firstly, no-cost or housekeeping measures, for example switching off lights and appliances. Such measures can bring about 10-20pc energy saving. Secondly, low-cost measures such as replacing old light bulbs with LEDs. Thirdly, cost-intensive measures including major changes and modifications, such as replacement of single-glazed windows with multi-glazed ones and old technology with modern solutions. Overall, with technically mature and commercially viable solutions, 30-80pc energy saving can be achieved.

Although Pakistan’s energy policies have talked of energy conservation, there has never been a proper road map for implementation. The latest policy development is the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, 2016, that has replaced the Pakistan Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, 2011. But laws and policies can never deliver unless there is robust implementation.

The conservation law must be enforced.

The focal point of energy conservation activities is the National Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority (Neeca), formerly the National Energy Conservation Centre (Enercon). Established in the 1980s, the entity has been subject to continuous administrative and inter-ministerial shuffling, indicating a lack of direction. The 2016 act states that the federal government shall establish a body, the Pakistan Energy Efficiency and Conservation Board (PEECB), to oversee affairs. It has been almost a year and half since the law was passed but we are still waiting to hear about its status.

International aid agencies and developmental programmes have launched initiatives over the years to improve energy efficiency. Groups such as the UN Environment Programme, USAID, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, to name a few have led the drive for energy efficiency in Pakistan. Their contribution has been pivotal. Even the inception of Enercon is the result of a USAID project. Unfortunately, efforts by these foreign entities have not been supported by local stakeholders.

It is high time we realised that energy conservation is the cornerstone of energy prosperity. It is the easiest and most cost-effective solution to shortages, and an extremely viable solution in terms of application at both the macro and micro levels, and potential outcomes: the national grid, utilities, industry, and commercial and domestic consumers can all draw multiple benefits. At the national level, it would reduce the need for new generation capacity, ease the T&D network, reduce the energy import bill and curtail the perennial problem of load-shedding across the country.

Policymakers must demonstrate pragmatism. The focus has to be on the implementation of the conservation law, in letter and spirit. Bureaucratic hurdles need to be minimised. What­ever body is in charge, Neeca or the PEECB, it must not be a victim of political arm-twisting; it must have due authority and adopt a carrot-and-stick strategy to deliver results. The trend of taking half-hearted measures only to be abandoned — eg, daylight-saving, the early closure of shops, and energy-saver bulbs — needs to end. There is a wealth of international experience and success stories on the policy and implementation fronts to learn from.

Adopting international best practices is a viable strategy. Sector-specific and goal-oriented standards and regulation should be enacted to deal with all sectors, including utilities, industrial, commercial and domestic consumers. Chambers of commerce, and industrial and trade bodies can be engaged to hold awareness workshops, share success stories and organise training and knowledge-dissemination activities. Professional bodies including the Pakistan Engineering Council, the Institute of Engineers Pakis­tan, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers should be involved.

To find a sustainable solution to Pakistan’s many energy woes, policymakers must give energy conservation at least the same level of importance as capacity addition.

The writer is the author of Energy Crisis in Pakistan: Origins, Challenges and Sustainable Solutions.


Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2017

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