The government has triumphantly made the energy sector the touchstone of its policy and performance. Rightly so, the energy deficit is viewed as the primary bottleneck in economic development and is a major contributor to the lack of public and foreign investment, as well as being the source of much difficulty for the common man. The first 18 months in power have produced mixed results. The biggest waves have been caused by a large Chinese investment programme; the premier has coaxed various solar, wind, nuclear and coal projects, which would become operational by 2016 at the earliest, significantly reducing the deficit. It is encouraging that the state is exploring sustainable, clean energy as a viable option, utilising the natural potential of Pakistani climate. Ironically, in stereotypical PML-N fashion, many of the projects are embroiled in legal challenges, mostly for the skirting of environmental protection laws and procurement procedures. Assuming that the state works around these hurdles these projects will provide much-needed relief, especially the cheap coal power plants.

On the micro scale, the state has announced a significant decrease in the energy tariff and the State Bank of Pakistan’s annual report indicates positive trends for economic growth compared to previous years. It goes ahead to candidly attribute most of these to one-off incidents such as the global drop in oil prices and grants by foreign states, such as the $1.5 billion ‘gift’ by Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, this is good news for oil importing countries, who should capitalize while the lull lasts.

Despite strides in the electricity production department there has been almost no development in the energy distribution department – viewed by most as the bane of Pakistan’s energy sector. Electricity theft – colloquially termed “technical loss” – amounts to 24% of production; amongst the highest in the world. No attempt has been made to break the collaborative corruption between the costumers and the distributors or tackle blatant electricity line tie-ins. The recent breakdown of the national power grid on Friday brings into sharp focus the lack of maintenance on our existing power plants, especially hydroelectric. The government needs to tackle all elements of the energy crisis to truly claim success.