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  #21  
Old Thursday, April 04, 2013
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Thar Coal Project:sluice the misgivings

Shanzeh Iqbal


It is argued that the Thar coal reserves are more than the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia and Iran together. They could last for five centuries and can give energy worth 50,000 mega watts. This much energy is adequate enough to generate four times energy than the present need of Pakistan. The analysis is that there is a great potential for energy production than the Middle East oil reserves. Some say that they can last till 500 years. However an inordinate delay and insufficient funding by the authorities may cause a grave blow to the task. Look at the current scenario in Pakistan. The petrol prices are raised after every fifteen days. LPG price hike is there. The salaried class pays the taxes that too may be because the tax is deducted at source from their pay. In such wobbly conditions this project will not only help overcome energy shortages but also facilitate the international investor to come in Pakistan which will lead to prosperity.

Thar is the largest desert in Pakistan where most of the people are living in bleak conditions. They live below the poverty line. With a very restricted water supply, no electricity and transport or other facilities the life of Thari people is a sorry tale. Bonded labour is a common place phenomenon thus adding to the miseries of the people.20 years ago a student from Thar discovered that over 200 billion tons of coal is hidden there under the surface. This is quite great enough to supply electricity to Pakistan for hundreds of years. In this way the ailing economy of Pakistan can be uplifted.
What is surprising is the fact that mining companies from different countries have shown interest in this project but the lackluster approach by the government is creating problems in the way.

Work has begun near Islamkot area hence it can be ascribed that the project is at a very early stage. As per Dr Mand’s saying the planning commission has rendered this project as impracticable and the government has blocked provision of funds relating to this project. So far the government has released only$10m out of $115m during the last three years. While Dr Mand regards Rs1 billion to make this project a success. The general debate is that government spent a colossal amount of money on the futile rental power plants and that to no avail. The electricity produced by these rental power plants cost us 16 to 17 rupees per unit. Cannot it provide only one billion rupees to Dr Mand who propagates so vehemently about it? Even the Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has himself regarded it as nation’s future. In August 2012 he informed that one block of Thar could produce two billion barrel diesel.

Well the concerns of the environmentalists cannot be forgone. Some say that this project would contaminate the Thar’s aquifer. Then there are the objections regarding the feasibility and financial viability of this project. The spokesman of the government, (Shahid Sattar, member Planning Commission whose educational capability is just matric, who has been appointed as advisor to ministry of water and power) has said that such type of project would mean the financial loss to the government. Dr Samar Mubarik Mund who is working on this project on honorary basis (means he is not taking any salary) has revealed that Shahid Sattar does not know anything about this project nor he has ever visited the site. Of course the question comes to mind if there are forces of oil and commission mafia at play? If there can be so much waste on foreign tours by the dignitaries then why is there no financial assistance to fund this extremely viable venture?

It has been proved now that using modern technology the underground Thar coal reserves can be converted into gas and this gas can be liquefied also. The electricity produced by the Thar coal would cost Rs 4.5 per unit. This also arouses some skeptical concerns. Even India is producing 77 percent of its electricity through coal, China is producing 78 percent. Then why cannot we gain energy through it to overcome the energy dearth. The geological surveys of the coal mines need to be conducted to bring to the surface the design development of these mines according to international standards. These requirements are indispensable to avoid any human loss during coal gasification. Moreover if the pilot project fails to witness the dawn of the day in an amicable way then it may unquestionably lead to the loss of credibility among foreign companies and may create a bad name of our country.

There is a serious reservation by the people of Thar. They seem to lament that already the natural resources of Sindh like natural gas and oil projects had observed the interference from federal government. Now the people of Sindh should take some benefit and even the two lawyers have filed the petition that the provincial government of Sindh should have full control over coal in Thar.

They also express grin that the companies recruit outsiders and therefore the locals cannot get the jobs. These are serious reservations and should be catered to. The Locals should be given priority. The rights of the poor people of Thar should be protected. This project would be in the whole nation’s interest therefore worthwhile attention must be paid. The differing experts ought to be brought on one platform and their fears must be spelled out. It can be done by preparing a proper feasibility report and conducting the geological survey along with a suitable power plant design.

The fact remains that coal is a cheap source of energy and it can turn the fate of Pakistan but there is also need to see whether the petroleum lobby is the encumbrance on the way to materialize this project .When the Chinese, Czechoslovakian and German companies have offered hundred percent investments in the country why there is an emphasis on the use of high priced imported oil when we can exploit the domestic potential? The government should show ample interest in making this project a success if it is really interested in trouncing the power crisis.

http://www.pkarticleshub.com/2012/09...he-misgivings/
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Old Friday, April 05, 2013
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Clean and renewable energy

April 05, 2013
Peter Hoffmann




Around the world, governments and businesses are constantly being called upon to make big investments in solar, wind, and geothermal energy, as well as biofuels. But, in the US, unlike in Europe and Asia, discussion of hydrogen energy and fuel cells as systemic, game-changing technologies is largely absent. That needs to change: these clean, renewable energy sources promise not only zero-emission base load power, but also a zero-emission fuel for cars and trucks, the biggest polluters of them all.

By now, many have heard about plans by big carmakers to launch hydrogen fuel-cell cars commercially around 2015. Daimler, Ford, and Nissan plan to launch such cars around 2017. Germany plans to build at least 50 hydrogen fuelling stations by 2015 as the start of a countrywide network. Japan and Korea have announced similar plans.

But a bigger, largely unreported, message is that some European countries, especially Germany, have launched projects that combine renewables like solar and wind with hydrogen for energy storage, implying clean, zero-emission, stable power grids that require no coal, oil, or nuclear power.

Indeed, the bottom line of a new study by two American researchers, Willett Kempton and Cory Budischak, is that the combination of renewables and hydrogen storage could fully power a large electricity grid by 2030 at costs comparable to those today. They designed a computer model for wind, solar and storage to meet demand for one-fifth of the US grid. The results buck “the conventional wisdom that renewable energy is too unreliable and expensive,” says Kempton. “For example,” according to Budischak, “using hydrogen for storage, we can run an electric system that today would meet a need of 72 GW, 99.9 percent of the time, using 17 GW of solar, 68 GW of offshore wind, and 115 GW of inland wind.”

Their study lends scientific support to several such projects underway in Europe aimed at proving that hydrogen gas, converted from water via electrolysis and stored, for example, in subterranean salt caverns, can smooth out fluctuations inherent in solar and wind energy. It builds in part on two recent studies at Stanford University and the Carnegie Institution, which conclude that “there is more than enough energy available in winds to power all of civilisation.”

The latest effort, scheduled to get underway outside Brussels this year, is the delightfully named “Don Quichote” project (“Demonstration of New Qualitative Innovative Concept of Hydrogen Out of wind Turbine Electricity”), designed to highlight utility-scale energy storage and transport, and to provide power for fuel-cell forklift trucks. Meanwhile, near Berlin, five companies launched a $13 million pilot project at the main airport in Schoenefeld in December, expanding and converting an existing hydrogen fuelling station to CO2 neutrality by linking it to a nearby wind farm. Earlier last year, two German utilities announced two gas demonstration plants. And the world’s first renewable energy or hydrogen hybrid power plant, producing both electricity and hydrogen as car fuel, started production in the fall of 2011.

The previous year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel laid the plant’s cornerstone herself, sending a strong signal of her seriousness about Germany’s shift to clean, renewable energy. Indeed, the much-noted Energiewende, or energy turnaround, that she announced in 2010 is arguably one of the most audacious acts of environmental statesmanship yet.

Germany’s move toward renewable energy is likely to have a much broader positive impact. More broadly, Lutz Mez, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, argues that the country’s shift has “observably decoupled energy supply from economic growth,” and that the “evolving Energiewende, rather than the nuclear phase-out” implies “continuing reforms of social, economic, technological, and cultural policy in Germany.” What, one wonders, are lagging nations waiting for?

The writer has authored “Tomorrow's Energy: Hydrogen, Fuel Cells, and the Prospects for a Cleaner Planet”, and is the editor of “The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Letter” (www.hfcletter.com). This article has been reproduced from Project Syndicate.

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-ne...inions/columns
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  #23  
Old Friday, April 05, 2013
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Reforming the power sector

Nasim Ahmed


Circular debt has become the proverbial albatross round the neck of the power sector which has been suffering badly under the burden of the curse. Circular debt is the amount of cash shortfall within the Central Power Purchase Agency (CPPA) that it cannot pay to the power supply companies.

This shortfall is an outcome of the difference between the actual cost of providing electricity in relation to revenues collected by the power distribution companies (Discos) from sales to customers plus subsidies and insufficient payments by the Discos to CPPA out of the revenue realized as they give priority to their own cash flow needs.

This revenue shortfall disturbs the entire energy supply chain, from electricity generators to fuel suppliers, refiners and producers resulting in a shortage of fuel supply to the public sector thermal generating companies (Gencos), a reduction in power generated by Independent Power Producer and an increase in load-shedding.

According to a report by the Planning Commission and USAID, the country has lost 10 per cent of its GDP in the last five years in the power sector. Power sector circular debt has increased by 938 per cent in the last seven years. It rose to Rs. 872 billion by June 30, 2012, from Rs. 84 billion in 2005, accounting for 4 per cent of the country's GDP.

Poor governance, delays in tariff determination by the government, poor revenue collection by Discos, prolonged stays on fuel price adjustments granted by the courts and transmission and distribution losses are some of the causes behind the mounting burden. The provision of fuel subsidy is not properly targeted as a result of which benefits extend to undeserving sectors and segments.

It is estimated that delays in tariff determination and notification contributed Rs. 72 billion to the circular debt during 2012. On the other hand, poor revenue collection contributed Rs. 86.92 billion. Overall, the government has pumped Rs. 1.4 trillion into the system in four and a half years without any evident improvement in its performance. The huge amount of subsidy has made no difference in the situation.

The power sector is riddled with anomalies and distortions. The government fixes a single rate for all consumers and a single generation cost for all power producers. It does not allow the regulator to set the tariff by Discos territory-wise, ignoring the considerations of commercial decision-making in the light of the given situation. This results in conditions that contribute to circular debt, including a reluctance to pass on the real cost of electricity to customers. Other issues are overstaffing and wrong decision making at the Discos, open-ended subsidies to tube-well customers and disputes over payment between the Discos and provincial governments.

There is no legislation to curb electricity thefts and no administrative measures have been initiated to promote energy conservation, increase commercial transparency, strengthen regulatory entities and create an open and competitive energy market. Political and bureaucratic influences, coupled with lack of technical and management competency, also undermine the performance of Discos.

There are also other causes contributing to the ballooning of circular debt. These include thermal inefficiency of the Gencos and a failure on the part of Nepra to set balanced tariff rates based on actual vs. estimated heat costs, an unfavourable generation mix of the Gencos due largely to the government's fuel allocation policy that diverts natural gas to other uses, a non-commercial/non-professional approach to load-shedding, late payment surcharges by CPPA to the IPPs resulting from the inability of the Discos to fully pay CPPA, lack of demand-side management and a persistent failure to harness renewable energy resources.

How to tackle the problem of circular debt and prevent its recurrence? The current level of debt prevents sector entities from obtaining funding to support improvement in management and system operations and from attracting investment needed to support expansion.

To begin with, the government needs to remove circular debt from the books of energy sector entities (Discos, CPPA) and take responsibility for the mismanagement of the power sector reform process and move the circular debt amount to its own account or place a tax on the consumer to speed up recovery over time.

It is the considered view of experts that the government needs to redefine its role in the power sector as a policy maker and direction setter at the national level and allow international best practices to be followed for improved corporate governance for each of the sector entities. At the same time, tariff and subsidy disputes between the provincial governments and CPPA and the Discos need to be urgently resolved.

At the same time necessary legislation needs to be passed declaring electricity theft a punishable crime with penalties ranging from heavy fines to imprisonment with specialised courts established for the purpose. The Discos need to be made independent and members of their Board of Directors, apart from possessing high professional and technical capabilities, should have full authority for decision-making. To this end, it has been suggested that necessary changes to Articles of Association of the Discos be made to improve the directors' term of office and maintain institutional knowledge with proper rotation and replacement.

Another important recommendation is that there should be targeted, performance-based tariff for all Discos and steps should be taken to remove the current cross subsidy between the efficient and inefficient distribution companies. It has been suggested that to improve the fuel allocation policy in the short-term, fuel should be diverted to the highest value uses and high priority should be accorded to the power sector in the allocation of natural gas.

The government also needs to formulate policies and plans to promote hydro power and other domestic sources of energy that will assist in balancing the electricity supply portfolio. We need to generate more hydel energy in order to bring down the cost to consumers. The role and functions of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) should also be revised with a view to improving its operations. The annual determination of tariffs for the Discos and subsequent adjustments for fuel costs are lengthy and ineffective, resulting in revenue shortfalls and cash flow problems, obscuring the true cost of electricity to consumers. Among other things, Nepra needs to improve its enforcement powers over the Discos with regard to cases of consumer overbilling and requires additional authority to move ahead with implementation. Power sector reforms are the need of the hour and cannot be postponed any further.

http://www.weeklycuttingedge.com/front%20story01.htm
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  #24  
Old Saturday, April 06, 2013
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In the name of PSO dry-out

Notwithstanding, inefficiency of the political leadership in the past, the hierarchy ruling the state institutions is more inefficient and incompetent than their masters. Least bothered about the sufferings of the masses in the country, top bureaucrats are continuously making mockery of the state institutions, in fact. For the last five years, the nation is forced to live in dark like Stone Age. The two institutions WAPDA along with its subordinate power generation & distribution companies and the Pakistan State Oil Company are running amok with emotions and sufferings of the people. The unbundling of the WAPDA though now being reversed and the deregulation of oil coupled with bad management in these institutions have played havoc with the power and energy sectors. To camouflage their follies and inabilities, these heads resort to fake hue and cry to derive personal benefits. The power is basic requisite to run the life, but it has never been given the priority it deserves. The bad luck is that none is even prepared to take responsibility of the mess the nation is thrown into. Once again, the PSO chief has warned of a possible complete dry-out in a few weeks owing to the repeated defaults on local and LCs’ payment amounting to Rs 11 billion therefore no bank is ready to open letters of credit to order future oil imports. How can a bank cut off its business relations with a state-owned organization that claims to have receivables to the tune of Rs 141 billion apart from the cash inflow it carries? Yes! The company may have some financial crunch but not a bankruptcy as the PSO is making claims, and if at all, such is the sorry tale, the top manager, failing to keep the institution alive, must resign forth with. Now he stands no chance to retrieve the company from the situation he led into. The storage capacity of the PSO is limited, and unfortunately none of the foreign oil companies have raised it as per the agreements signed prior to making investment in Pakistan. Yet these companies are making massive profits unaccounted for. The PSO owes the outstanding payments of around Rs 104 billion to fuel suppliers against the receivables of Rs 141 billion. In purely business terms the imminent default, as claimed, is out of question. The fact of matter is; the PSO, under the influence of foreign oil companies, wants to fetch some quick payments, threatening a complete dry-out next month. The situation, as of today, suggests that the default is already in place. The PSO should do the business like business men do rather than triggering a panic amongst the masses. It is not matter of non-payment that has led the country or the PSO on the verge of collapse. Pakistan needs to revisit the policies governing the oil, gas and power sector; for which let the new representatives take over the reign of the state in mid May. As the present managers cannot do wonders, for sure.

http://www.thefrontierpost.com/category/46/
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Old Wednesday, April 10, 2013
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Power tariff hike!

Dr Kamal Monnoo


In this new era of economic trade-offs or ‘imperfect solutions’ (as some economists are calling it), the policy choice on which way to tilt, or to opt for a combination of policy choices from opposing spectrums, largely depends on the skill and vision of the economic managers.

At a time when the world as a whole is going through one of its worst phases of recession, often referred to these days as the ‘Great Recession’, the battle in prescribing the ‘right’ remedial prescription between the traditional Keynesian and Friedman Schools has also simultaneously heated up, since both struggle to find real-life examples around them.

For example, in a recession, should governments reduce budget deficits or increase them; do zero-interest rates stimulate economic recovery or suppress it; should welfare benefits be maintained or cut in response to high employment; should depositors in failed banks be protected or suffer big losses; does income inequality damage or encourage economic growth; will market forces create environmental disasters or avert them; is government support necessary for technological progress or stifling to innovation; and, last but not least, especially in our context as Pakistan plunges into darkness and its manufacturing risks coming to a grinding halt, should the government be raising power tariffs by about 60 percent in one go or will it be unfair to make the consumers pay for governmental inefficiency and corruption?
Fortunately, we do not have to worry on most of the above counts, as we seem to have found the ideal solution: just do not appoint economic managers and, hence, no real decision making would be necessary.

In the 90 days timeout of the interim setup - an ideal opportunity to tweak the management structure - we, ironically, have no Finance Minister, a Commerce Minister with an absent track record on area of expertise, and the heads of Planning and State Bank of Pakistan, perhaps, being rewarded for failure.

The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) is recommending an increase in power tariff by more than Rs 4 per unit for all consumers. Based on the revised NEPRA tariff for the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO), which is the most efficient national power distribution company and if its tariff is used as a benchmark across the country, the increase comes to Rs 4.80 per unit.

If approved, on the domestic side, the consumers consuming 50 units per month will face an increase of Rupee 1 per unit, Rs 2.30 for 100 units per month, Rs 4.80 for 101-300 units per month, Rs 3 for 301-700 units per month and Rs 1.50 per unit for over 700 units per month. If it is not approved, the government will need to provide a subsidy of Rs 400 billion to the power sector.

Currently, the average power generation cost is Rs 11.99 per unit, whereas consumers pay only Rs 8.89 per unit and the government bears the Rs 3.10 per unit tariff differential in shape of subsidies.

Compare this with our neighbour India and in particular with the State of Haryana (previously a part of East Punjab, India); we witness a similar endeavour by them to reduce power sector subsidies, thereby shifting some of the burden away from the national exchequer. The authorities on April 1, 2013, took another 13 percent increase, making it a second double digit increase in less than a year.

Further, they resolved that electricity rates in future will be determined under a telescopic tariff structure, which has been re-categorised into two groups for the industrial users: ‘optimal’ and ‘non-optimal’ users, and four instead of the previous three groups for the domestic consumers - 40-100 units per month, 41-101 units per month, 101-250 units per month and 251 and above units per month.

Head on head when compared with Pakistan and converted into Pak Rupees, their average power comes to 12 per unit as against the present 8.89 per unit in our case. The proposed Rs 4 per unit increase would take our tariff to 12.89 per unit.

From a regional perspective (eight members of SAARC), India and Pakistan already have the highest power tariffs and, perhaps, it is in this vein that one feels it would not be sensible to take a decision on the level of power tariff increase that places us right at the top of the South Asian power tariff table. Such a thing would, indeed, be disastrous for competitiveness and investment.

At the same time, Pakistanis need to understand that while, in the long term, there remains a strong case of consumer rights and the danger of supporting inefficiency and corruption by adjusting the wrong end of the equation - meaning that, raising the power tariff instead of bringing down the cost of power production - regrettably, there are no short-term solutions to bringing about structural reforms in the power sector. T

Therefore, at least for now to keep the engine of the economy running, it is recommended that the government should go ahead and implement a level of increase that allows it to maintain its power generation at reasonable levels. However, simultaneously, not cripple the common consumers - an ‘imperfect solution’, but best under the circumstances.

Though after doing so, it then becomes imperative that the government undertakes without further delay the power sector reforms that entail rebalancing the fuel mix, focus on alternative solutions, and allow for structural changes to provide space to the private sector and encourage private-public partnerships.

The economy is like driving a car through a Formula-1 grand prix where you need to successfully manage the curves, intelligently use the breaks with the accelerator, remain focused, refuel and change tyres when necessary at the pit stops, but, most importantly, 'not' to slow down. And the energy in this race is like the oxygen without which it will not be possible to go across the finishing line.

n The writer is an entrepreneur and economic analyst.
Email: kamal.monnoo@gmail.com

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-ne...inions/columns
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Old Wednesday, April 10, 2013
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Loadshedding: fait accompli!


A man from marginalised background is heard saying loadshedding is the best revenge the PPP has inflicted on the masses. But even the elite, including members of the former government, are now getting a first hand experience of the extraordinary shortfall. After all, the onslaught of over 20 hour long blackouts is proving enough to exhaust their generators, emergency batteries as well as UPSs.

One such member of the elite Ahmed Mukhtar – who during his reign as minister for Water and Power might not have seen lights go out, not even for once – is experiencing how painful the blackouts can be. Granted, he made some statements in favour of Kalabagh Dam and the loss to the economy ensuing from its absence, that were first of all, too late and secondly they did not translate into action. On Sunday, he stated that the blackouts, which have prolonged further coinciding with the departure of the PPP setup, are being stage-managed to tarnish the PPP’s image. Granted, Mr Mukhtar might be making a point but loadshedding, existing in its present horrible form is the result of years long neglect of the energy sector. The PPP virtually did nothing and in fact apart from brushing off Kalabagh, arguably the best remedy, halted payments to the IPPs that now accounts for 20 hours long blackouts. But that is fait accompli. Its repercussions for the party and its electoral fortunes appear a foregone conclusion.

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-ne...ons/editorials
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The absence of electricity


As, according to the government, the power crisis is supposed to have improved, the man in the street may be forgiven for wondering why multi-hour loadshedding occurs. At the same time, even though the hot weather has yet to set in, temperatures are beginning to rise. With an election date of May 11, it was inevitable that the poll would take place in the heat, but that it would be accompanied by loadshedding on a vast scale reflects not just the failure of the previous government to do anything, but also the inability of the caretakers to do their job. The caretaker government should not dismiss the energy shortage as something the elected government should handle. Not only is the caretaker government supposed to ensure that it solves the problems of the people, but also that it conducts the polls with as few problems as possible. It should be clear to the meanest imagination that the kind of loadshedding that will be taking place at polling time will adversely affect the process. Also, the caretakers would prefer to concentrate on the polls rather than tackle the rioting that the past tells us is inevitable, as temperatures rise, and the electricity-powered cooling devices cannot be turned on. Apart from the law and order challenge, there is the economic. The kind of loadshedding that has been seen, but which is continuing, will lead to cancelled export orders, closed factories and lost jobs.

To prevent this, the caretakers must be more proactive. Bold steps are needed, which cannot be left to the incoming government. The shortfall, according to a report appearing in this newspaper, has reached 3500 MW, and is likely to go up further. One consideration is that if the Kalabagh Dam had been built, it would have added 4500 MW to the system, thus covering the shortfall. This would be apart from its water storage and flood control functions. But the lobbies which oppose the dam do so because they want thermal generation to prosper, even though neither hydel nor thermal generation are substitutes for one another.

The caretaker government must realise that it must act as a careful steward by taking the measures needed to ensure that it does not leave as its legacy punishing loadshedding and a ruined economy. The energy crisis is so serious that it might overshadow the coming poll. The incoming government will have its hands full passing the budget and will prefer no loadshedding crisis as well.

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No light at the end of the tunnel

By:Anita Saleem

While the rest of the world progresses, our nation simply moves towards deterioration

“Light aa gai” is the happiest phrase here in this part of the world where we exist. ‘Exist’ would be just the right word to define our situation. We don’t grow, we don’t progress, we merely exist. Thanks to the meagre amount of electricity that we are left with. As a nation, we are far from progressing simply because our young ones are unable to spend time in scholarly activities (studying for exams, exploring scholarship opportunities and planning their career). All their time and energy is consumed by allotting the six hours of electricity we get each day. Six out of 24 hours – without exaggeration!

This has been the situation since the past two days. I, being a professor to undergraduate students, am in a fix. On the one hand, my responsibility includes introducing students to use online journal articles and teaching them how to submit a paper in APA format. On the other hand, how is it even humanly possible for them to surf the internet and type out a paper when there is no electricity? All around the world, students at the undergraduate level are expected to meet all these demands and they are more than capable to do it. Our university works just like an American university. With only one difference, our children barely have access to electricity.

Let’s consider another international trend. Worldwide, scholars have mostly gone paperless in order to protect the trees; they use online textbooks and study resources which one can buy easily. I also email my students some of the helpful websites and study materials frequently, but what good is it if they can’t access it?

Last week, I announced in my class that an assignment was due. The assignment included finding supporting peer reviewed journal articles on various issues within health psychology. The students were excited about looking up journals and flipping through articles hoping that one day their articles might also land up there. A few days later, I announced the assignment. However, the electricity situation started deteriorating. Each day we would have less ‘electricity’ time and more time without electricity. It started with 10 hours of electricity and dropped down to only six hours. Eventually, the students got in touch with me and requested me to postpone the assignment or simply amend it in a way that reading a journal article online and submitting a typed paper would no longer be mandatory.

“What? That screws the entire idea of the assignment. We’re doing a 400 level course here. It’s not a joke,” called out a voice from within me. I sat and began to analyse the situation more rationally. Indeed, how could I expect the students to complete computer-related tasks when they had no electricity back home? But at the same time if I did not introduce them to all these things how would they be at par with students in other parts of the world? Clearly, I’d want them to be as efficient and as up-to-date as students anywhere else in the world, but with the limited resources that they’re left with, this seems perhaps too far-fetched an idea.

Nonetheless, I wanted to reach a safe conclusion for the students so I extended the deadline and asked them to spend extra time on campus (on our campus, the computer facilities run till late in the evening). There we go! Problem solved for that class (roughly 20 people).

My mind did not cease to work though. I continued thinking about the countless students all around Pakistan. All the smart children who neither can reach their full potential nor can they invest time with their books. I thought of all the students appearing in their O Levels, A Levels, Matric and Intermediate exams this year. Most of them would probably be off from their schools for ‘preparation leave’. What preparation leave, I wonder. Preparation to deal with undue stress? According to Shelly Taylor, a situation of this calibre which is negative, uncontrollable, unpredictable, ambiguous and continues for days is detrimental both physically (as your immune system is suppressed) and psychologically (as it leaves you feeling not just helpless in the given situation but also hopeless about the future).

While I was teaching the chapter on stress to my health psychology class, I noticed that the American textbook which I use as the main course book (in an attempt to impart international level quality education) had no reference to ‘no electricity’ as a stressor. Even while listing examples of frustration (which is a type of stress in which your pursuit of some goal is thwarted) to my introduction class, the best I could come up with was “Consider the stress that you experience when you have a deadline for your assignment, but no electricity to actually work on it”. I could see all 40 heads nodding in agreement. Who else could relate to this example more than them? No American or British textbook could even think about coming close to this one.

While the rest of the world progresses, our nation simply moves towards deterioration. The only ones unaffected by this situation are the ones whose homes never run out of electricity. They are the few privileged ones that can move up the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and reach the ‘self-actualisation’ stage i.e., reach their full potential. For the masses, however, life has simply come to a standstill. We’re stuck at the lowest level of hierarchy with our very basic needs unmet. Sadly, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

The writer is a faculty member of the Psychology Department at the Forman Christian College University.

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/columns/
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Old Wednesday, April 10, 2013
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Load shedding is back


And it’s not summer season yet

Summer is a tough season for Pakistanis because it brings an anathema of sorts with it: load shedding. The country saw load shedding of up to 18 hours in cities while many rural areas virtually remained in darkness the other day while it’s still spring season officially. A major chunk of what little we are generating is being used totally free, at very little cost, wasted through problems in the distribution system, or is simply stolen. What remains for public consumption is peanuts compared to the country’s total installed capacity.

7,000MW of energy for a population of 190 million, industrial and business sectors included! The statistics speak for themselves. Reports say that the country’s shortfall in energy demand and supply has shot up to 6,000MW. It will go further up as the summer season hits peak around mid-May through mid-July. Around 700MW goes to the KESC, reducing the national supply by another 10pc. The supply drops to 4,500MW as lines losses, theft and transmission inefficiency cost us up to 25 percent. Exemptions given to hospitals, the VVIPs and the defence sector take away another 1,500MW, leaving the net available electricity to the rest of the consumers at 3,000MW only. How is the general public supposed to manage its electricity needs with only this minuscule supply? The government has not paid any attention to the issue in the past five years, other than some shady deals for rental power projects.

The terrorists in the recent weeks have upped the ante with attacks on power installations. Over the past one week, terrorists attacked four installations, including a 220kv grid station. Four gas pipelines were destroyed over the fortnight, affecting power generation. With Uch Power (550MW), Habibullah coastal power plant (125MW) and Sheikh Manda power plant (25MW) out of order for the past 36 hours after acts of sabotage damaging gas pipelines feeding these plants, the national grid has literally been brought to its knees. Another 700MW went out of the generation tally because of disruption in oil supply to AES Lal Pir and Pak-Gen on Saturday. Tarbela and Mangla also lost 600MW of electricity producing capacity due to less water availability.

Protests have been held in various cities including Lahore, Faisalabad and Hafizabad, and one would wish that protests this time don’t turn out to be as violent as the last year. Making matters even worse is the fact that elections are at hand and if there is no electricity, there could be complications of a number of varieties.

What needs to be done, even if there is a caretaker setup in the country at present, is that generation of power must be given top priority. Mere reshuffling of administration is not going to result in anything concrete. The focus should be on how to increase the generation capacity so as to handle the situation properly, instead of getting it out of hands.

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/editorials/
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Old Friday, April 12, 2013
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The lengthening shadows


The power loadshedding has, for some years, been direly impacting the country’s economy. Adding to its baggage of closed industrial units and lost jobs, declining exports and reserves, are the progressively longer outages, with little respite in sight. And that could not but spell bleaker economic prospects to which the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has drawn attention in its annual report, Asian Development Outlook. It says: “The economic situation weakened further in the first half of FY2013.....and food and general inflation both re-accelerated in January.....imports stagnated and imports contracted.” The shortage of power supply, according to the ADB’s assessment, would cut growth in GDP by two percent annually, ruining the chances of economic resurgence that calls for seven percent growth. The risk also is “possible shortfalls in agricultural production” offsetting the modest improvement in manufacturing.

At the same time, life that has largely become dependent upon regular flow of power suffers badly. Absence of electricity means interruption in water availability and it hardly needs mentioning that water is an essential component in doing the household chores, including personal cleanliness. If people in sheer exasperation hold public demonstrations, it is difficult to blame them; for they rightly believe that the government ought to have taken measures to ensure an adequate and uninterrupted availability of electricity.
While, no doubt, calling a meeting of the Council of Common Interests is a right approach to call attention to the discriminatory allocation of electricity quota to Punjab, the declaring of two weekly off-days for government institutions is simply a palliative. It would, perhaps, improve the position somewhat for two days, but would, on the other hand, cause further hardships to the public in several ways, especially when the redress of their complaints would be delayed. Chief Minister Najam Sethi has impressed upon Prime Minister Hazar Khan Khoso the importance of getting an equitable share of power for the province. However, the country needs a solution that according to experts lies in the full utilisation of the installed capacity, which is supposed to be higher than the actual demand. The focus should be on removing the hitches i.e. clearing dues of all concerned, recovery from defaulters and putting an end to freeloaders who steal power. The allocation of Rs 20 billion that the Prime Minister has made could set the ball rolling.

However, for ridding the country of the scourge of shortage, long-term solution has to be planned that should cater to growing needs in the future. Mr Khoso has rightly stressed the need for search of new gas deposits, but the known and unutilised sources must also be brought on line as quickly as possible. For one thing, the suicidal tendency of preventing the construction of Kalabagh dam must be curbed. For another, foreign expert advice on exploiting the wind and solar potential of the country must be sought. The effort has to be on a war footing.

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-ne...inions/columns
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