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Power Shortage in Pakistan

Posted on14 May 2008.

One of the most common questions asked in reference to Pakistan is as to what is the
current burning issue in Pakistan? Instead of a simple answer you will most probably be
presented with a long list of the problematic issues that have been plaguing the economy
of Pakistan and retarding its growth for a long time now. But of these issues, one issue
that will be rated as the top most valid issue being faced by both the people and the
government of Pakistan, will be the shortage of power/electricity in Pakistan. As in
almost every other field Pakistan is suffering also with a very serious crisis in the
power/electricity generation sector. In fact according to a recent estimate around 67% of
our population continues living in darkness even in this modernized era.

The electricity and power shortage is a chronic problem that has slowed Pakistan’s social
and economic growth rate. The problem is not a new one and dates back to the early
nineties when the power supply was exceeded by the demand for electricity by thousands
of MW. The gap between the demand and supply resulted in routine load shedding. At
this point the GOP (Government of Pakistan) intervened through the adoption of policy
measures that aimed at mobilization for the investment in the power and electricity
sector.

Let’s further review the history of electricity supply in Pakistan. There are basically two
companies that are working for the production of electricity. The Karachi Electric Supply
Corporation (KESC) which is responsible for the production of electricity in Karachi,
Sindh, Baluchistan and the adjoining areas whereas the responsibility to produce
electricity for the rest of the Pakistan falls under Water and Power Development
Authority (WAPDA). Though both the companies operate individually through their own
networks they are connected with each other at two points. Amidst strong disapproval the
KESC was seized by GOP. But no satisfactory measures were taken by the new owners
to alleviate the energy crisis, despite their claims of not only modernizing the
infrastructure of the company but also making it a profitable entity within a couple. What
actually happened was that after the privatization, load shedding and breakdowns in
power became more frequent than ever. And now this debacle is not only restricted to
Karachi but in the recent months has caused disruptions throughout Pakistan. There have
been power fluctuations and power losses because of the insufficient electricity supply.

The continuing power crisis has not only disrupted the daily lives and businesses of
people but has also added to their miseries. It has impeded the growth of both small scale
and large scale businesses. Industrial progress is in shambles owing to the unpredictable
and the unreliable power supply. People are forced to deal with the day long interruptions
in electricity and have to suffer in the intolerable heat and humidity with no logical
solution in sight. Electricity is a necessity in the fast pased modern society and its
shortage not only dampens the spirits of the people but also hampers their productivity. It
would not be wrong to say that the frequent power breakdowns have brought both the
domestic and social lives to a standstill. The shopping malls and the open markets that
were once swamped by the customers are now dark and deserted.

Though people are now reverting to private generators and Uninterrupted Power Supply
(UPS) in hope to cope up with the frequent load shedding this too is a luxury available to
only the rich as the sky high prices of the generators and their fuels make it unattainable
to the common man who can hardly make both ends meet.

Further the gas crisis is not only adding to but is also aggravating the power crisis. The
reason being that because of the recent very cold winter there was an exceptional increase
in the demand for gas, gas which is not only used for private needs but which is also used
for powering the generators of WAPDA.
KESC, WAPDA and the Pakistani government have unveiled several plans of setting up
new plants and starting new power projects that might help in the fulfillment of power
requirements. Like for instance a few months back as an effort to deal with the
power/electricity shortage WAPDA switched off alternate streetlight points and refused
to provide electricity for any kind of ceremonial or entertainment purposes. Further
markets were ordered to close early in an attempt to conserve power. But all these efforts
went in vain and the power/electricity shortage continued to spiral out of hand. In fact
until some effective and swift measures are taken by the government of Pakistan the
problem of shortage in power and electricity and their supply will continue increasing
and will spiral out of control as the shortage in power and electricity in Pakistan is not
only affecting the people but is also affecting Pakistan’s competitiveness in the
international market. A liberal policy is called for which has a less bureaucratic approach.
Not only will help in the production of energy units but will also help in prospective
attractive investments in the power sector.

Simply put when the supply is surpassed by demand there is a deficit and the increase of
demand for power/electricity has exceeded its supply and has therefore created a
shortage. The population is increasing at an alarming rate and so is the demand for the
supply of electricity which is growing at an annual rate of almost 9 %, whereas the
supply of electricity is increasing at a comparatively slower rate of around 7 %, which is
unsatisfactory. Further the dependence on the thermal power stations for the generation
of electricity has largely contributed to its rapidly increasing cost. The government
should have foreseen the expected shortage and should have taken some effective
measures to increase the power supply. But whats done is done so instead of wasting time
by searching for ways to pin the blame on a certain body, time should be utilized to seek
a long term and effective solution to the power and electricity shortage crisis. Now it is
the government’s responsibility to search for an effective alternative.