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Fuel blind


Themes: Energy and environment

Pakistan must act now to resolve its continued debilitating power shortages that are grinding industry to a halt and robbing the population of a basic necessity, warns Dr Kamal Munir

The 1990’s privatisation of Pakistan’s energy sector, and the policies under which it now operates, are to blame for the country’s continuing power crisis, with 18-hour long power cuts followed by almost daily unrest and street protests.

According to Dr Kamal Munir, Reader in Strategy & Policy at Cambridge Judge Business School, there are two solutions to the continued debilitating power shortages that are grinding industry to a halt and robbing the population of a basic necessity.

He advocates that in the long term, the fuel mix should be changed. Almost a third of electricity is oil-generated which is expensive because Pakistan is not an oil producer. A further 30 per cent comes from the dwindling reserves of gas.

“Pakistan has coal reserves estimated to be the fourth largest in the world and yet only 0.1% of electricity comes from coal so where have the governments been for the last 20 to 30 years?

“Why haven’t they developed more hydro capacity? Why haven’t they developed coal as an alternative source plus solar? Pakistan is the Saudi Arabia of solar energy; there is so much sun. How come we are not investing in developing solar the way we should be? Similarly we have wind corridors in Pakistan – how come they are not being developed?”

Dr Munir’s favoured short-term solution is to change the regulatory regime which governs the energy sector.

“That can become a short-term solution if the contracts are renegotiated with the independent power producers. Today’s situation is simply unsustainable and will lead to a lot more political and social unrest. If that is what the policy-makers want, then fine they are going about in the right way. If that is not desirable, then something needs to be done about the supply contracts right now.”