The government is seemingly as powerless as the public to prevent power outages, and the earlier statements of the PM and other higher ups in the party about decreasing load shedding in Ramzan has only reiterated the lack of substance behind their words. Power plants are reportedly running on fumes as Pakistan is rapidly consuming the last of its fuel stock, with no plan for replenishment because of five defaults on international payments, as well as additional money owed to our largest oil supplier, Pakistan State Oil.
Demand for electricity in the coming months is expected to be at its maximum at 16800 MW. Pakistan’s power generation is distributed along three major sources, thermal (gas/furnace oil), which is responsible for 65 percent of the generation, while hydel power contributes around 31 percent and atomic energy makes up for the remaining 4 percent. The input of atomic energy into the national power grid is relatively stable at 812 MW. Hydel generation is dependent on water levels and river flow, and can produce as much as 6654 MW, but only 2414 MW on bad days. Thermal power plants produce roughly 13637 MW. If these figures are to be believed, the total power generation capability of the country stands at around 23000 MW while peak demand is only 17000 MW. If that were the case, there would be no energy crises to siphon off 10 percent of the country’s GDP in the last six years. However, it is not nearly as simple as that. Hydel power generation is rarely at its maximum, and public and private companies are shutting down their thermal generators because of their inability to pay for oil, with gas shortages making the job even harder. The government has to spend Rs. 2 billion a day to run inefficient plants that require more input than output, and the conflict in Iraq is likely to increase international oil prices even further.
In the short run, there is not much to be done to overcome the shortfall in electricity except for preventing line losses and bring down power theft. But with no oil reserves of our own, Pakistan must come to the realization that power generation must be tailor-made for each country. The government must reduce its reliance on thermal generation and increase hydel power, and overcoming our collective bias against the Kalabagh dam would be a good place to start.