NationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 36

A solution for sustainable power supply

Every summer in Pakistan, the nation faces a recurring issue of power shortages, leading to widespread complaints, protests, and discontentment against electricity distribution companies and the government. Despite expert recommendations and efforts from successive governments, the problem remains unsolved.

Every summer, a chorus of complaints, protests, and threats floods in from all corners of the country, directed at both the electricity distribution companies and the government. This issue has persisted for over two decades, subjecting successive governments to severe criticism and curses. Despite the input of energy experts and their proposed solutions, the problem continues unabated, leading Muhammad Badar Anjum, a retired grade-19 government officer and energy ‘layman,’ to propose a political remedy for what he believes is a political problem.

Anjum asserts that Pakistan possesses a power generation capacity that exceeds its needs, yet every summer, people endure long hours of load shedding. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2021–22, the installed electricity generation capacity reached 41,557MW in 2022, while the maximum total demand from residential and industrial sectors stands at nearly 29,000MW, and the transmission and distribution capacity is capped at approximately 22,000MW.

The country boasts astounding figures for its potential to produce electricity from various sources. NEPRA estimates a hydel potential of approximately 41,722MW, and Pakistan possesses significant potential for solar and wind power as well. According to the World Bank, utilizing just 0.071 percent of the country’s area for solar photovoltaic (solar PV) power generation would meet its current electricity demand, with an estimated solar potential of over 100,000MW. Furthermore, the country’s total estimated gross wind power potential installable capacity is around 346,000MW, and the Thar coal alone presents a potential for 100,000MW of electricity generation.

Among the various renewable options, Badar Anjum focuses solely on solar energy, which he sees as environmentally friendly. He proposes that the federal government can resolve the power shortage issue by involving citizens. His suggestion is to initiate a pilot project in an ordinary locality of Lahore. The initial steps would involve legislation to protect all stakeholders legally, signing memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with commercial banks, authorized solar energy companies, and other stakeholders.

The government should form committees in the targeted areas comprising administrative and technical officers, bank representatives, and local government officials. These teams would go door-to-door, offering people the installation of solar energy units tailored to their electricity needs and monthly incomes. The loans for the solar units would be recovered in manageable monthly installments, designed to be easily understood by power consumers.

Anjum recognizes that people belonging to the lower strata of society might be hesitant to avail bank loans due to complexities and incomprehensible information. To overcome this, the project must be executed under the slogan of “Solar Energy at People’s Doorsteps,” ensuring that consumers do not have to visit banks or offices for the process. The installment amounts should not exceed the consumers’ monthly bills to avoid additional financial burdens. Notably, consumers can even sell their excess electricity to the power distribution companies if they are mindful of their energy usage.

The concept is not entirely new, as a similar arrangement exists with the installation of solar energy units at consumers’ premises along with the net metering system. Introduced in 2015, the Net Metering Policy enables consumers to produce their own electricity using renewable energy facilities (such as solar or wind) and supply any excess energy to the national grid. Users either pay reduced utility bills or receive payment for exporting surplus energy to the grid.

Anjum raises a valid question: why are many people unaware of this scheme, which could provide uninterrupted solar energy, particularly during the summer when it is most needed? He suspects a sinister design at play, implicating vested interests in the sector. Anjum claims that independent power producers, closely connected to influential figures, do not want a permanent solution to the issue, as it involves substantial investments and offers opportunities for profiting from the public’s misery.

Turning to the technical aspects, Anjum shares data obtained from solar energy companies. He highlights that by installing ten solar panels, the owner of a 3-5 marla housing unit could produce an average of 10,000 watts per day, equivalent to saving 10 Wapda power units. Considering that such houses typically consume 10 power units, uninterrupted power supply could be achieved, with the bill amount paid as a monthly installment to the banks. Anjum envisions that hundreds of thousands of watts of power could be produced monthly by Lahore dwellers, easing the burden on the national grid and enabling the allocation of power from other sources to industries.

With its vast potential for solar energy and other renewable sources, Pakistan holds the key to resolving its persistent power shortage issue. Muhammad Badar Anjum’s vision of empowering citizens through a solar energy initiative offers a promising and sustainable solution. By providing legal protection to stakeholders and collaborating with banks, solar energy companies, and local representatives, the government can initiate a pilot project that enables seamless adoption of solar energy systems in ordinary neighborhoods. The simplicity of the process and the possibility of selling excess energy back to the grid not only benefit the consumers but also contribute to easing the burden on the national grid. As the nation harnesses its renewable energy potential, it can secure a brighter and greener future for its people, ensuring uninterrupted power supply while making significant strides towards environmental sustainability. By embracing this path, Pakistan can lead the way in demonstrating how political will and citizen engagement can bring about a positive transformation in the energy landscape.