Save energy in power-starved Pakistan

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Feb 7, 2013.

Islamabad – It might seem bizarre to ask Pakistani citizens to conserve energy when most of them spent 2012 braving hours of loadshedding and a power shortfall that peaked at 8,500 Megawatts (MW) this past summer. Yet, experts suggest consumers ought to do more.

“The demand side of electricity has been ignored in energy discussions as such, but it is especially important in addressing the scarcity of energy in the country,” Mirza Hamid Hassan, former secretary of the federal Ministry of Water and Power, said. “Unless consumers cooperate, all the rules and regulations set up by the government, distribution companies and other regulators will come to a naught.”

Hassan was of the opinion that it is in the consumers’ self-interest to conserve energy as it will help reduce their power bills. He was moderating a seminar on “Energy Legislation — Response to Conservation, Efficiency and Alternatives” at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in Islamabad on Wednesday.

“Energy conservation should be a part of daily discussions,” said Asad Mahmood, technical manager of the state-run National Energy Conservation Centre — popularly known as ENERCON.

Mahmood said consumer awareness should be increased so that there is pressure from the demand side for energy efficient solutions in the country.

That pressure is supposed to fill the void created by the absence of legislation for energy conservation.

Efforts to pass an energy conservation bill from the National Assembly have suffered first because of devolution in the wake of the 18th Amendment and secondly, because of administrative changes in the water and power ministry, Mahmood said.

Staff shortage at ENERCON is another reason work on the draft bill did not progress as quickly as it should have, he said.

But Mahmood was optimistic about the bill’s future. He said the delay in passage has helped the ENERCON team add important energy benchmarks to the bill, based on the legislative experience of neighbouring countries.

If passed, the energy conservation act will call for mandatory energy audits of commercial centres and industrial units. Mehmood said this would help with job creation as well.

Dr Ashfaq Ahmed Sheikh, the additional registrar at the Pakistan Engineering Council’s professional development department, briefed the participants about efforts undertaken by the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) regarding energy conservation.

He said two on-grid solar power systems have been set up at the PEC building and the Planning Commission office in Pak Secretariat.

The most notable effort by PEC, however, is the introduction of Energy Provisions in the building codes. These provisions — like the energy conservation legislation — are not formally approved yet.

Sheikh said a notification is awaited from the Ministry of Law and Justice, after which the Ministry of Water and Power will move a summary to the Cabinet for approval.

For now, the provisions, which aim to save energy in yet-to-be constructed buildings through energy-efficient building design and materials, will be applied to large-scale consumers:

During the questions and answers session, the conversation quickly moved to alternative energy sources and their associated costs. Participants raised questions about the pricing and regulation of solar power equipment.

Some of the participants rejected solar power as a complete alternative to Pakistan’s energy crisis, instead suggesting it be used only to cover the loadshedding time in urban areas. According to one estimate, the solar panel costs Rs700 per Watt —

The complete system that includes inverters and batteries in addition to

In Oct 2012, the cabinet division launched a water, electricity and gas conservation campaign. It involved Islamabad’s Capital Development Authority (CDA). But so far, neither the CDA nor the cabinet division has made any energy audit public. It is difficult to ascertain energy savings which resulted from this campaign, especially because electricity consumption is not at peak load in the winter season.

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