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ISLAMABAD: Power Division is to give a detailed presentation to the federal Cabinet on power theft across the country and measures taken to curb the such practice, official sources told Business Recorder.

On October 11, 2022, Power Division briefed the federal Cabinet that major international events had resulted in disruption to the global energy supply chains. As a result, global price of crude oil and imported coal had witnessed an increase of 32 percent and 103 respectively only in the last nine months. Pakistan being a net importer of energy resources was facing serious supply-side challenges. The situation as a whole had become a significant threat to country’s energy security.

In the prevailing situation, energy efficiency and conservation were key measures used by countries across the globe to mitigate associated risks. However, in the case of Pakistan, both energy efficiency and conservation were generally treated as alien concepts. According to the Energy Yearbook, final energy consumption for FY 2020-21 stood at 60.2 million tons of oil equivalent registering an increase of more than 15 percent over the previous year. This situation was becoming unsustainable for the country and warranted a concerted effort, at the national level, for implementation of energy efficiency and conservation measures, across the energy value chain. It was in this backdrop that the federal Cabinet in its meeting held on May 10, 2022 reviewed the situation holistically and directed the Cabinet Division to constitute a Ministerial Committee on Energy, Water and Food Conservation under the convenorship of federal minister for Defense with a mandate to consider and recommend measures to be taken for conservation of energy, water and food as per Cabinet decision.

Thereafter, multiple working sessions were held in Power Division to identify, evaluate, and strategize potential energy efficiency and conservation measures. During the process, several sub-sectors having inefficient energy use were discussed. It was also noted that there was an urgent need for upgradation of energy efficiency and conservation standards and strict enforcement/compliance. Replacement of inefficient appliances and consumer awareness for responsible use of energy were other key areas which were identified for action as a national priority. It was estimated that a dollar outflow of around $ 1.150 billion could be potentially saved annually through implementation of efficiency and conservation measures.

Power Division secy orders crackdown against power theft

After thorough consultations and evaluation of various efficiency and conservation measures, a detailed plan and implementation strategy were formulated which was presented to the prime minister, whereafter, the PM directed Power Division to formally submit a summary to the Cabinet for consideration and approval of energy efficiency and conservation measures and implementation plan.

Energy efficiency and conservation measures as finalised by the Ministerial Committee and submitted to the PM were presented as follows: (i) enforcement of administrative measures like hybrid work model, closure of commercial markets at 8pm and alternate switching of streetlights. This will result in saving to the tune of US 568 million dollars annually through fuel and electricity savings; (ii) switching to LED lights from traditional incandescent bulbs to enable annual savings of $ 103 million; (iii) approximately 2.65 million fans, out of total annual production of 7 million, are inefficient and cause a loss of around 0.68 billion units annually.

Ban on production of inefficient fans shall enable savings of around $ 69 million annually; (iv) existing installed water geysers consume around 105 million MMBTUS of gas annually which can be reduced by 25 percent through installation of conical baffles. Accordingly, installation of conical baffles in the existing water geysers shall be progressively ensured to enable annual saving of around $ 419 million through gas conservation annually; (v) car-pooling initiative for 7,164 private educational institutions (PEIS’) in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) shall be progressively implemented which shall enable savings of around $ 4.7 million through reduction of fuel consumption; provinces shall be asked to replicate the model; (vi) total number of registered gasoline bikes as of 2021 was approximately 24.8 million while annual sale of bikes was around 1.85 million units. Mandatory increase of market share of electric bikes to 25 percent in annual production shall enable potential saving of approximately 100 million dollars annually; and (vii) massive awareness campaigns for different energy efficiency and conservation measures shall be carried out through print, electric and social media platforms.

During discussion, the prime minister pointed out that some of the proposed measures were more relevant for summers, when the demand was high and may not be needed in winters. The minister for Defence/convener of the Conservation Committee recommended that, given the crisis like situation, it would be prudent to implement the measures throughout the year, and not just on seasonal basis, so that a culture of conservation could be inculcated in the public.

A concern was expressed as to whether the capacity payments would increase with decrease in electricity demand. It was clarified that the savings from decreased demand would outweigh any increase in capacity payments.

Pointing out electricity connections of over 300,000 primary and secondary schools, a member suggested that school solarisation could result in substantial savings. With regard to early closing time for markets, resistance from the traders was underlined. It was suggested that the proposed measures necessitated a change in national culture and habits, and the provincial governments should be brought on board for implementation. The minister for Law & Justice highlighted that Article 149 (4) of the Constitution empowered the federal government to give directions to the provinces for the purpose of preventing grave menace to the economic life of Pakistan.

Some members warned about the political fallout of some of the proposed measures and stressed that the objective could instead be achieved through curtailing electricity theft and line losses. It was pointed out that in Sindh, the line losses ran as high as 9 percent over and above the percentage allowed by Nepra.

The minister for Power informed that theft and line losses were being addressed through advanced metering and cabling. Underlining that energy conservation and the theft/line losses were not a case of either-or but both were required to ensure country’s energy security. The members desired a detailed presentation on electricity theft and line losses, and the measures being taken to check these, in the next meeting.

Concluding the discussion, the PM while appreciating the proposed energy conservation measures, observed that a strategy was required to implement it in a staggered manner. He suggested to constitute a committee to recommend a short, medium and long-term implementation plan for the proposed energy conservation measures, to which the members agreed.

After discussion, the Cabinet constituted a committee headed by minister for Defence to fine-tune recommendations for conservation of energy and submit to the Cabinet.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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