The country is facing an impending power outage since 2007. The outage is not only frequent but erratic as well. It is not a seasonal problem either, but represents round the year worry, compounding with time. Albeit, electricity constitutes an important driver of growth and is a basic need for sustaining human life, it seems that there is no immediate solution to the problem. Twelve hours a day loadshedding is ravaging our economy. It is estimated that the loss of industrial output alone, due to loadshedding costs the country Rs. 250 billion a year.

The terms independent power producers (IPPs) and circular debt became synonymous with the emergence of loadshedding. The IPPs are operating at less than 50 percent of the installed capacity. They stop generating electricity due to non payment from government sectors. Why don’t they stop giving them electricity? The problem is unending and the country is trapped in a vicious circle. Though, the circular debt, in the parley of financial management is an issue of cash flow, but in reality it goes beyond that. With the government managing the multi-layered centralized system being operated by a multitude of power producers, distributors and bill collectors, the complexity of this sort is bound to surge. The adage ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ holds well in the electricity scenario too.

The energy generation in our country heavily depends on imported furnace oil, which is a heavy load on the exchequer. Not only that, from time to time the electricity charges are raised, the bill footed by the consumers as an indirect tax, not knowing that they are paying for the misuse of energy at government level. The public has still not got the hint that the previous government robbed them right left and middle and this is not a legacy left by any previous government but something that they came up with on their own.

In a country endowed with enormous energy potentials such as solar energy, coal and hydropower, some conscious souls are yearning for environment friendly alternate sources of energy in the face of this disaster. The government could have made the solar energy panels available at lower cost, thus fighting this energy crisis. This government spent more time on useless discussions and international tours rather than get their house in order. Added to all this there are numerous electricity thieves in the country, who simply refuse to pay for what they consume. The honest consumer who pays the electricity bill has to pay additional charges for these electricity robbers.

This whole mess is due to unethical people sitting in power corridors as well as old systems of transmission which are not automated, modernised and capital-intensive. The other pitfalls of the outdated transmission system, not discussed often are scattered and tangled electricity wires and poles installed, defacing beauty of cities, causing injuries and causalities and blocking urban roads expansion plans. Till the electricity business is privatized and decentralized with a mix of energy choices to the private sector, there seems a slight prospect of arriving at a sustainable solution. A right energy policy is a right solution.

JAVED IQBAL,

Lahore, April 15.