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Pakistan’s energy odyssey: Unveiling, unleashing, illuminating

Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, social equity and environmental sustainability.” These insightful words by the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, resonate deeply with the prevailing energy crisis in Pakistan. The nation finds itself entangled in a complex web of challenges, where multiple factors converge to create a daunting energy shortfall. Chief factors of the crisis include country’s overdependence on imported fossil fuels, particularly Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for energy production, energy sector’s governance and management issues, theft and massive debts.
As the country’s aging power grid struggles to meet the escalating demand, frequent breakdowns and blackouts have become a bitter reality for the citizens of Pakistan. Such a crisis reverberates across various domains, causing economic losses, impeding industrial growth and compromising essential services like education and healthcare. To address the issue, Pakistan must urgently adopt a comprehensive approach, embracing renewable energy sources, strengthening infrastructure and promoting energy conservation to ensure a future of sustainable prosperity.
The energy crisis in Pakistan has multiple and complex causes. One of the main causes is the overdependence on imported fossil fuels, especially LNG, which accounts for about 25% of the country’s power generation. LNG is subject to global price fluctuations and supply disruptions, making it an unreliable and costly source of energy. Another cause is the poor governance and management of the energy sector. The energy sector is plagued by corruption, inefficiency, theft and losses, leading to a huge circular debt of 2.63 trillion rupees that hampers the financial viability and performance of the sector.
Another factor is the country’s aging power grid which is unable to cope with the increasing demand and supply, causing frequent breakdowns and blackouts. Additionally, the transmission and distribution systems are also inadequate and inefficient, resulting in high losses and wastage of energy, thereby worsening the crisis further.
Consequently, energy crisis in Pakistan has profound impacts on various aspects of the country’s development. One of the severe impacts is the economic loss and slowdown caused by the power shortages and load shedding.
According to some estimates, the energy crisis has cost the country up to 4% of GDP over the past few years. Secondly, the industrial sector, which accounts for about 20% of GDP, has been severely affected by the energy crisis, leading to reduced output, lower exports, higher costs and lower competitiveness. Thirdly, the social sector has also been impacted by the energy crisis, affecting the delivery and quality of education, health care, water supply, sanitation and other essential services to the nation, Thus, the energy crisis has affected the quality of life and well-being of millions of Pakistanis who have to endure long hours of load shedding in extreme weather conditions.
Irrefutably, energy crisis in Pakistan requires urgent and comprehensive solutions that address both the supply-side and demand-side issues. On the supply side, Pakistan needs to diversify its energy resources and reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels by developing its domestic resources. Pakistan should also invest in upgrading its power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure to improve efficiency, reliability and to minimize the line losses. Moreover, Pakistan has to improve its governance and management of the energy sector by consolidating its multiple institutions into a single ministry, formulating and implementing a coherent and integrated energy policy and strategy, curbing corruption, theft and resolving the circular debt issue.
On the demand side, Pakistan needs to promote energy conservation and efficiency among its consumers by raising awareness, providing incentives, imposing tariffs and enforcing standards. Pakistan should also encourage the use of renewable and alternative energy sources by households, businesses and communities, such as solar panels, biogas plants and micro- hydropower units to navigate the nations out of the crisis.
To wrap it up, energy crisis in Pakistan is a complex and multifaceted problem that requires a full and long-term approach. Pakistan cannot afford to ignore or delay the resolution of this problem, as it has far-reaching implications for its economy, society and even security. Pakistan needs to adopt a vision and a strategy that can ensure its energy security and sustainability in the face of the global energy crisis and the changing climate. The country also needs to mobilize its domestic resources and international partners to implement the necessary reforms and initiatives that can address the root causes and impacts of the energy crisis. By doing so, Pakistan can transform its energy crisis into an opportunity for development and prosperity.