As of the stroke of midnight Saturday-Sunday (May 31-June 1, 2008) Pakistan officially advanced its clocks by one hour. This “daylight savings” move is a bid to conserve energy in an increasingly energy strapped economy in conditions where everyone agrees that the energy situation is going to get worse well before it gets any better.
Dawn reports that:
the energy conservation package approved by the Federal Cabinet on May 14 also envisages that during the next three months (June-August), all shopping plazas will close business after 9 p.m. and switch over their weekly holidays from Sunday to Friday, while industries will similarly stagger their weekly offs; WAPDA will not supply power to billboards using lights besides management of street lights. Under Cabinet’s directive the use of air conditioners will be stopped from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. in Prime Minister House, Secretariat and other government offices, while one million energy saver bulbs will be purchased to promote culture of installing such bulbs across the country. The government has already set up a task force to control line losses.
The energy situation in Pakistan is precarious indeed. The economic loss that is being caused by it has to be immense. In all major cities, one seems to spend the entire day waiting for or recovering from the last load-shedding. Indeed, the economic working day in Pakistan is better described as the few hours of electricity in an otherwise electricity-less day, rather than by the hours of load-shedding within a “normal” flow of electricity.
The economic loss has to be measured not only by the economic value that is lost because of the lack of electricity, but also but the resources that are being diverted towards the expenditures necessitated by the new “load-shedding economy.” Those who can afford to, and many who can not, are being forced to spend obnoxious amounts of ineffective, uneconomical, noisy and polluting generators. Those who cannot, try out UPS solutions and the markets are flooded by over-priced and under-performing Chinese “rechargeable” lights and fans (some with built-in radios and other gimmicks). Most, however, have no options but to get used to the new status quo where people are already beginning to describe th day not by how many hours of load-shedding they have but by how many hours of electricity they get!
So, is “daylight savings” the answer? Or, at least, part of the answer?
The history and reality of the idea of daylight savings is itself a fascinating one. The book, Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time by Michael Downing, is a most fascinating account of the history and efficacy of the idea and it is not clear just how useful – if at all – the concept has been in actually saving energy.
To look on the bright side, the decision shows that a certain seriousness has emerged in Pakistan to think seriously about conservation solutions. Everyone seems honestly interested in it. And, quite clearly, conservation has to be a key step. However, this along with the other steps in the new Energy Conservation Plan, even if appropriate, seem like an inadequate attempt to respond to a crisis that demands much more bold strategies.
A simple chronicle of just some of the many posts ATP has carried on the topic shows just how serious a crisis we are in and how much worse it is likely to become: