Energy efficient solutions suitable but expensive for Pakistan

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Aug 15, 2013.

Islamabad – With the federal and Punjab governments showing interest in renewable forms of energy to cope with the country’s power crisis, there are some who are also suggesting a new push for energy efficiency and conservation measures.

Energy efficiency is a hard sell in Pakistan at times, mainly due to the high capital costs. People have to be convinced to spend more money up front to buy products which would eventually lead to financial savings over a period of time. For example, a 6 Watt (W) LED bulb can provide light equivalent to a 50 W incandescent bulb but it also costs six to seven times more than the old bulbs in local markets.

“Capital costs might be high for installing energy efficient systems,” said Dr Gul Najam Jamy, the Assistant Country Director of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). “But simple acts such as switching off extra lights can also help in energy conservation.”

Even then, messages to conserve energy are often received with mocking in the country. On Earth Hour — an annual global event where people switch off their lights for an hour voluntarily — in March, Pakistanis took to social media saying almost every other hour in Pakistan is Earth Hour because of the load shedding.

However, Asad Mahmood, Manager Technical of the Energy Conservation Fund (ECF) at National Energy Conservation Centre (ENERCON) thinks awareness for saving energy can be created if there is government ownership of conservation efforts.

Mahmood, who is also Pakistan’s first Asian Productivity Organisation-certified trainer on Green Productivity and energy efficiency, has been working with the fund since 2011. Before and during his work at ECF, he said he has conducted more than 200 energy audits which led to savings of around 10 to 15 Megawatts (MW) of connected load.

It is savings like these that Enercon, which falls under the Ministry of Water and Power, had pursued during the previous government. But the Pakistan Energy Efficiency and Conservation Bill 2013, which would have mandated energy audits and related regulations, failed to make it into law.

“Studies have shown that many of our existing systems, especially in industry, are inefficient,” Jamy said. “They use a lot of electricity but their productivity is low.”

Energy audits can help improve such inefficient systems and bring down costs, Mahmood said.

Sources told The Express Tribune that the Ministry of Water and Power has shown interest in reviving an amended version of the bill. Still, it will be some time before the bill is presented in the assembly again.

But there are other encouraging signs. Energy provisions for the Building Code of Pakistan, which could lead to energy-efficient building design, are ready.

Prepared by the Pakistan Engineering Council in collaboration with Enercon, a Statutory Regulatory Order for the provisions has been printed and the two organizations are looking to officially launch the provisions soon.

Reports suggest that the Punjab Government is going to ask shopping malls and plazas to replace tube lights and incandescent bulbs with LED lights in its new energy policy.

Jamy said if the technologies are made affordable, everyone would be willing to use them. He said solutions such as providing energy-efficient solutions and renewable energy systems on installment basis could be one way.

But there are other challenges, too.

“Most of the things you have to develop on your own because of the limited people in energy efficiency sector in Pakistan,” Mahmood said. “(There is a) lack of energy efficiency professionals and institutions working on energy efficiency projects.”

Jamy said it is important that energy conservation should be mentioned in policy and the time is now.

“The National Energy Policy was not approved recently so that has given some more time to push for energy efficiency in the policy,” he said. “But there should be a heavy emphasis with proper incentives, not just lip service.”

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