Energy crisis: some options

Posted on June 23, 2011. Filed under: Energy crisis, Pakistan |

NOT a day passes when we do not hear of serious agitation against power shutdowns in every province of the country, not to mention anything regarding the gas shortage in industries. However, nothing is being done to improve the situation.

The real problem is affording the high costs of power and since the government is unable to pay higher subsidies, how does it expect commoners to pay such steep amounts by transferring it to them.

These are not power shortages but, in fact, deliberate power cuts.

Simply put, we cannot afford to operate most of our furnace oil power plants as there is no money to pay for the fuel. It is the high cost of power production that is ‘forcing’ us to operate only 13,000 to 14,000 MW power plants when we have a capacity for 20,000 MW ones.

In the late 90s, new power plants were being ‘financially engineered’ and every time the future problem of high furnace oil costs was raised, the planners avoided providing any answers, as many people became billionaires in approving and setting up these inefficient and polluting power plants with built-in mechanisms to create the exorbitant costs of power that we have to bear today.

While we drown ourselves in the never-ending misery of high costs of power, let us see what the world is doing?

The International Energy Agency in its latest ‘Technology Roadmap’ (May 16) shows how efficient technologies can change the energy scenario substantially. Just one technology application of combined heat and power (or cogeneration) in buildings will reach about 747 GWe by 2050, about 45 times greater than today’s level which is already accepted as the norm in most European and Japanese buildings.

We have clear directives at the highest level to ensure that natural gas is only sanctioned to cogeneration systems in industries and commercial buildings. But then what good is such a directive if there are other ways to bypass it? It is worst when a ministrysponsored Building Energy Code of Pakistan totally ignores the major energy source, fuelling every sector of the economy.

The latest ‘Energy Code’ has no section on natural gas or LPG and thus has nothing to offer in terms of efficient and safe utilisation of gas in buildings. The so-called Pakistan Energy Code has been simply copied from foreign standards and since it is not normal for a building in the United States to have efficient gas-based power and central air-conditioning systems, we (slaves that we are) should also follow the same energy code! What really takes the cake is the provision of accepting inefficient absorption-type central air-conditioning plants in our latest Energy Code. Even now urgent corrective action will greatly help in avoiding unaffordable power generation with furnace oil by making available thousands of MW of low-cost power from CHP/Cogen Systems if we only provide proper incentives for industries and commercial buildings.

Are we up to this challenge for the sake of the country’s future?

AAZA Karachi

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