One would think that the winter months would offer some respite to citizens who have been through torturous months of power outages during the blistering summer. This winter season is proving that we laboured under a delusion. The power outages are so bad — amounting to as many as 18 hours daily even in major urban centres — that when we are provided with electricity, it feels like a luxury. Load shedding has reached its peak, with electricity being shut off every hour. To add to this misery, winter months are also host to extreme gas load shedding, making it impossible for one to warm homes, heat water or cook food. Domestic miseries aside, industries lie at a virtual standstill because of this compounded shortage. Without water, electricity, warmth, properly cooked meals and with anger rising, the public is beginning to feel the tug of extreme scarcity.
What is the government doing about this multi-pronged problem? Absolutely nothing. Despite all the promises made during its election campaign, the PML-N has failed to move the steps outlined in the national energy policy off the paper they are written on because it lacks the finances to realise its goals. Agreed, the energy crisis has been inherited from previous regimes, particularly from the Musharraf era when not a single megawatt was added to the national grid for nine long years. From being a country that was considering exporting electricity to India in 2002, we have become a country crippled by the electricity deficit. We still rely on expensive thermal energy, giving not a second thought to the other plentiful resources that we possess. As much as 50,000 MW of electricity can be produced through hydel power in the northern areas and the Thar coal reserves can give enough energy to last us for more than a century. We have failed to grasp the potential of alternative energy such as wind, solar and biomass. India, which is also faced with a massive energy deficit, is fast becoming the world’s leading solar power generator. Circular debt is a huge burden for us because the government institutions themselves do not pay their bills! The government doled out some money some months back, offering a little respite, but, once again, the circular debt is hovering around Rs 200 billion. We are caught in a vicious cycle indeed.
Gas load shedding is the icing on the cake. We have depleted our gas reserves due to bad decisions made by previous governments including the allowance of CNG to power motor vehicles. We are in no position to import gas (LNG) because we do not have the money to develop terminals for it. The government has to get its head out of the sand, step out of the comfort of its generator-run offices and homes and understand the misery of the common people. There is anger rising and it will spill over if allowed to fester. *
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