There are offers on the table from Brazil, Japan and China to establish projects that will help Pakistan with its energy crises. While these offers are important, the fact of the matter is that they come at a heavy economic cost to be borne by the national exchequer and the taxpayers. Yet, they are necessary, we have no choice but to import energy. There is a need to look inward at our own mistakes. While foreign projects can aid us, our own production of energy can also grow and flourish. Raftaar, an economic reform platform of the research body, the Consortium for Development Policy Research, suggests that even at the individual level there are steps that can be taken to decrease electricity shortages.

The dominant narrative is that nothing can be done about electricity shortages unless the government installs more capacity. The less discussed issue is of conservation. Raftaar quotes figures of energy wastage in households from leaving appliances running, suggesting that more than one-quarter of electricity used in households is wasted. The solution is a simple one, if people can use less electricity, the state has to provide less electricity, and can thus decrease its load shedding hours. In this regard the government has to run campaigns encouraging conservation, promoting energy efficient lighting and fans.

There are more UPS’ in Pakistan than there are people in Baluchistan. This odd fact is enough to provide us with ethical incentives to move towards changing our lifestyles to conserve energy. The problem with this private solution of UPS’ and generators is that they are inefficient compared to the national grid and thus wasteful. They add more pressure to increase load-shedding. Our current solutions are making the situation worse; they are convenient, not efficient.

There is so much that the common citizen and the state can do. We can learn from China how to use renewable sources of energy. Without moving to solar power, we will lose our agriculture to the ravages of climate change and load shedding. Wind power is another option where investment can be redirected. All this can happen without even touching the controversial issues like Kalabagh Dam and circular debt. The reliance on Liqufied Natural Gas is also expensive and inefficient.

The silver lining is that we don’t have to rely just on the state if we start making private efforts. If we want to leave a country where our children and grandchildren can survive climate change and water scarcity, our needs and wants have to move away from wasteful consumerism to a holistic ethos of environmental conservativism.