Andhair Nagri: Are We Serious About Energy Conservation?

Posted on April 23, 2010
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Economy & Development, Society
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Adil Najam

Are we really serious about energy conservation? And, by ‘we’ I mean all of us, not just the government.

The government is making a high profile move on the subject by announcing new policies for energy conservation, better policing of energy abuse, and of new power generation. We have written about energy often (here, here, here, here, here) and our post on solar energy continues to get much attention.

As someone who works in this area, I know that (a) this is the single most important economic leverage available to economic decision makers in Pakistan, and (b) while not easy, this – unlike other pressing issues, like water, for example – is an area where something could actually be done; because technically and even fiscally there is a real set of useful things that are actually doable.

And, yet, I find my self sadly cynical that things will change. Not just because I am still not convinced that this is a priority for the government and decision-makers but also because I know that our media is too interested in the ‘sexy’ stuff of politics to care much about this, and frankly given all we see in our own energy usage (rich or poor) I am not sure if even we consumers are willing to do anything more than crib (specially, since much that needs to be done for conservation needs to be done by us). Sadly, we pay attention only when things go so very bad that people revert to energy violence.

I feel bad about being so cynical. And I sincerely hope that I am wrong.

P.S. On a related note, here is an op-ed I just published on Pakistani environmentalist Dr. Tariq Banuri’s run to be the next United Nations climate change chief.

33 Comments on “Andhair Nagri: Are We Serious About Energy Conservation?”

  1. Haroon says:
    April 23rd, 2010 10:48 am

    I agree. Even though energy is so expensive in Pakistan, we ourselves waste it so much. I have seen it myself, that the loadshedding begins, there is no light, people turn on the UPS and start talking about just bad this is and how expensive and then they are even misusing and wasting the UPS energy!

  2. Vinnie says:
    April 23rd, 2010 11:23 am

    I agree with Haroon that people also misuse the UPS energy and when the battery starts to give up, they have to become careful in usage, So why not be careful just in time.

    Its not only the Govt responsible for this energy crisis but ‘we’ also.Even my Television set used to be on standby mode every time but seeing the crisis, I have now started to turn the power switch off and the microwave as well.

    There is still time to realize the mistakes and make up for these. Our individual efforts will make a Great Difference I Believe :)

  3. Deeda-e-Beena says:
    April 23rd, 2010 11:52 am

    CONSERVATION IS A MATTER OF HABIT !
    A STATE OF MIND!

    Whether it is Electricity, Water, Gas, Food or anything else, it is something one learns from childhood at HOME from parents and at SCHOOL and then it becomes the Habit of a lifetime. Both places provide Education and it is best delivered through Example.

    The Rich who have all these BLESSINGS, should be the ones to set the Example!

    CONSERVATION also very much depends on who is paying for these facilities, IF one pays him/her self conservation would follow.

    When it is provided FREE – as many (including servants and workers at Offices, Shops, Factories and other places of work) in service of Government and Private Sector receive – there is NO incentive to Conserve.

    In such cases the one who pays should lay the Law, including denial and disconnection.
    End of Story!

  4. Sehar Tauqeer says:
    April 23rd, 2010 12:20 pm

    The idea is ridiculous itself….how much we can save forcing the shopkepers to close thier shops by 8 pm by sticks and police what would the condition of already drowned business, two holidays in academia…what would be the effect on students , courses time and starting them from 7 am till 3 pm like long span, most important industry which is already closed by 40% and 3 shifts have come down to one with all major and big units down sizing thier experienced staff ecausse they have no electricity , no orders and hence no pays ! Hardly 1300 MW can be saved,so they say ! Kala Bagh can give alone 4500 MW , Bhasha also about 4300 MW , Thar Coal can give 50,000 MW for 100 years but no , we want commissions in RPPs today and in IPPs in 1996 in Benazir era for earning Rs. 12/unit from oil while General Ayub ,a Dictator , gave us Mangla which still give us Rs. 1.10/unit and Tarbela which today give us 80 Paisa/unit.

    If this is the vision of Dictator, then we welcome Kiyani to plz. come forward , we been waiting for you , Sir !

  5. Osman says:
    April 23rd, 2010 1:16 pm

    I find it funny that we are always complaining about energy prices etc. but go to any house, even poor people’s houses and you have such energy wastage. For example, no insulation anywhere. It just does not make sense. this is not about environment just about saving you own money.

    We desperately need better energy education.

  6. Jabbar says:
    April 23rd, 2010 1:42 pm

    Love the title. Andhair nagri. It really is becoming that.

  7. Shiraz says:
    April 23rd, 2010 3:07 pm

    Dr. Adil,

    I am very interested in hearing your thoughts about your views on how to solve Energy crisis in Pakistan. I work in General Electric Healthcare but our sister company GE Power has all the solutions- Digital Grid, Turbines, Wind Mills etc to help Pakistan and I am sure other companies have solution as well.

    Why Pakistan is paralyzed and not able to make any progress on this?

    Have you try to influence Pakistani Government to “get this done”?

    Do you need some help from grassroots? We can try to mobilize resources in Pakistan/ abroad?

    Sorry to be direct..but people like me look towards accomplished people like you to push Government get things done :-)

    I was even talking to my circle of influence to convince you to run for office in Pakistan!!!

    My pitch is simple..it is our decade and we should be convincing leaders like you to run for office…we can arrange funds and commit ourselves to campaign etc..

    http://www.gepower.com/home/index.htm

  8. Salman says:
    April 23rd, 2010 3:35 pm

    Energy conservation is the best OPIUM for us Pakistanis right now..

    we can conveniently forget about how bad the supply situation is and instead focus on reducing demand.. and this is what has suddenly started to happen…

    No doubt energy has to be conserved, but at present the MEAGER little energy we have left, if even that is “conserved” by shutting down shops at peak time.. and shutting down large industries .. which are only going to CREATE more money in the economy.. we are shooting ourselves in the foot..

    for the supply side we are being given only the most EXPENSIVE options like solar and wind energy .. instead of the cheaper ones that are actually viable for our environment and economic capacity.. namely water and coal..

    Conserve energy but please DON’T focus on conservation.. it is the supply side that needs to be increased.. the situation is so bad that its almost getting to an IRREVERSIBLE point..

    hundreds of factories across Pakistan have shutdown because there is no supply !!! and the deficit has only increased.. and no amount of “conservation” is going to bring back the factories to run.. we will only have to “conserve” energy by shutting down further factories..

  9. Aliya says:
    April 23rd, 2010 4:16 pm

    Salman’s point is of, I am sorry to say, is silly. The whole world realizes that no one will ever have enough energy if we continue wasting it the way we do and the cost of the environment also has to factor in.

    Conservation and new supplies are two different things. If our habits of how we use energy remain idiotic then no amount of new energy will ever solve anything. This redneck attitude that I will not change my waste and let the govt solve everything will not only mess the country but the entire planet!

  10. Salman says:
    April 23rd, 2010 5:00 pm

    @Aliya:

    //Conservation and new supplies are two different things. //

    Exactly. and the deficit is in something of the order of 1000′s of times the amount we can conserve..

    //If our habits of how we use energy remain idiotic then no amount of new energy will ever solve anything. //

    as I said.. its the new OPIUM ..

    what is idiotic is thinking that we are SOLVING the crisis by conservation !!! we’re just conserving .. thats all.. the crisis at present is so humongous it is cutting right at the roots of our economy.. businesses are shutting down.. costs of running are going up..

    Previously we got ANGRY at loadshedding.. now we are going to be PROUD of it .. because we are serving the planet !!!

    this is fine for residents of DHA’s or Islamabad.. its a good “cause” to run NGO’s for.. and its a great OPIUM in the hands of the Government .. for the rest of the country.. its what DRUGS are supposed to do ..

    Conserve energy .. Jahaz ban jao.. u’ll fly !!!

  11. Aliya says:
    April 23rd, 2010 5:27 pm

    Check your facts again. 20-32% (depending on where and which sector) of our electricity is lost even before it gets to the consumer. So, right there in checking those transmission losses (and thefts) is a first conservation answer to the problem. But more than that the consumers use of energy is immensely wasteful. The figure to look at there is the unit of economic output per unit of energy and that is way bad. We our energy use wastage is even worse than countries in the Gulf oozing with energy. That energy conservation savings is estimated to be around another 25+%. Do those two things and you have immediately and overnight created more energy “generation” and are p to 1.5 times the energy that is now available to the consumer and without building a single new plant!

    No one is saying supply is not a problem. But no amount of new supply can ever solve the problem if you and I keep wasting the energy that we do have.

  12. Nihari says:
    April 23rd, 2010 5:40 pm

    Conserve energy? Where the hell is it?
    nangi nahaye gi kiya or nichoray gi kiya

  13. Salman says:
    April 23rd, 2010 5:57 pm

    @Aliya:

    Preventing the loss you are talking about is part of the SUPPLY issue.. its not about conservation..

    conservation in our country is about shutting down businesses.. increasing holidays.. and sitting in darkness while saving the planet …

    anyway.. the losses u r talking about are either line losses due to low grade metal wires being used.. or old equipment.. replacing both costs money… and that is something that MUST BE DONE .. its part of where we should be spending our money on..

    but still .. the only way to minimize line losses is use Copper wires.. which is the much more expensive than spending billions on a dams in terms of energy that we get as output.. only Sheikhs of the Gulf can afford Copper ..

    //But no amount of new supply can ever solve the problem if you and I keep wasting the energy that we do have.//

    I don’t know y u r repeating this .. u would be able to “conserve” enough energy in a whole year at your home to run a small home-based factory in Sialkot or Faisalabad for a week.. or a large industrial unit for a few hours..

    What we can conserve is in a factor of THOUSANDS of times less than the required demand.. and I am talking of demand in terms of INDUSTRIAL demand.. not bulbs, mobile chargers and ups …. for God’s sake !!!

    We need to be really careful we are not wasting energy because its so less.. but thats it.. the seriously crippling crisis our country is going through is not something to sleep upon..

    Giving our Government the opportunity to sleep while we enjoy our self-praise .. is suicidal..

  14. Aliya says:
    April 23rd, 2010 6:10 pm

    If you think that conservation is “load shedding” then I am sorry there is nothing to discuss since you obviously have no understanding of conservation or what it is. There is a whole literature on energy conservation and I would suggest maybe reading some of it.

    As to your claim that we need “1000 times” the energy that can be had by conservation. It is an absurd notion and I would love to see a credible reference that it is so. I would even be surprised if it is 100 times.

    I have no interest in wasting time on childish sloganeering. If there is an intellectual argument to be had, as this site is known for, then I will be happy to participate.

    Most of all, I would love to hear from Prof. Najam who is clearly a world expert on these things.

  15. Salman says:
    April 23rd, 2010 6:47 pm

    @Aliya:

    I am sorry but your solution was regarding bettering our SUPPLY .. cutting line losses has nothing to do with conservation.. it COSTS money to cut line losses.. how is that “conservation” ??

    As far as your “thinking” is concerned regarding how much conservation is going to help.. I am glad that at lease you are aware that is only your “thinking”..

    I happen to be part of our industrial sector.. a small one.. no big fish to influence anything.. but have first hand experience of what “literature” you are talking about .. and how it works with reality..

    In our own factory we have done everything possible to reduce our energy costs according to “literature” .. and yes we did try everything because it was a matter of survival.. and guess what .. I would rather start an NGO and get $$$ in aid working on “literature” that solves energy problems… and close the factory.. i really don’t need any tuition.. in fact I can teach you all the ways you can “conserve” energy..

  16. April 24th, 2010 12:59 am

    Its just another BS of the ruling elite to give lolly pop to the furious people already on the streets ad the Shameless Rulers are fearing some sort of Kyrgyzstan situation here. If Dressing of Yousaf Raza Gilani comes to moderate level and 90 chor and smugglers sitting in Cabinet should be kicked out , it would save us much more than shutting down already drownd business and industry. Liquid Gas Scandal , PIA, Steel Mill 40 billion corruption, EOBI,Sugar Don Mafia sitting in Parliment and they are saying Pakistanis to conerve energy , what a joke !

  17. Neena says:
    April 24th, 2010 6:11 am

    I think only democratically elected leaders can lead the country into progress.

    Anyway have you heard about another IJT lawlessness in International Islamic University Islamabad and I hear they are even getting stronger in Punjab University. Allah save our nation from these Zia followers.

    Link 1 | Link 2

  18. April 24th, 2010 7:38 am

    Our banks provide loans for luxuries I have a very simple question why they cannot provide loans for the purchase of solar cells?

  19. Jamshed says:
    April 24th, 2010 7:59 am

    Given the ever escalating electricity bills,most people have little choice but to be serious about energy conservation.The government’s credibility is shot.I still marvel at the straight faced lie that load shedding would be a thing of the past by December 2009 !

  20. readinglord says:
    April 24th, 2010 11:18 am

    The hot summer is yet to come, but we are already feeling the hype in load-shedding which is making the people to rise in protest all over the country. As usual the media is trying to do its job in giving vent to their grievance in this respect but I find nowhere any mention of theft of power by the WAPDA themselves, which, in my view, is contributing a lot to the outage of power. Perhaps the people do not know that WAPDA allows free use of electricity by its personnel, and if people do the same they call it theft. This is like allowing a policeman to commit 2 or 3 burglaries freely during a month (one for paying the electricity bill and one for school fees of the children) or an audit employee to commit frauds likewise. Although there was hardly any check on theft of power by Wapdians even when they were not formally allowed to do so, but after that it was ‘moujaan eiy moujaan’ for them.

    I relate a true story hear when the wapda personnel had not yet been allowed free (Halaalified) use of electricity:

    “There was a Wapdian friend of mine with whom we had family relations. One day he came to my house with a ‘tableeghi jamaat’, out on house to house delivery of their wapdian islam. I took my friend on one side and said to him,” Why have you of all the people come to preach Islam when I know that you steal electricity so freely that you use it even for heating and cooking and even wash your floors with water heated on electricity and perform ablution, etc., for namaz with that rendering every thing ‘harram” in shariah.” I was surprised by his answer when he said,” You are mistaken, dear friend, theft of a ‘ghair marraeihy’ (invisible) thing is not ‘harraam’ in shariah”.”

    I wonder why one thing which is harraam for the people in general is hallaal (free) for wapdians. I am sure if an extraneous check is placed on use of power which they call free for them and theft by the people called, there may perhaps be no load-shedding or reduced a lot. But who is going to bell the cat?

  21. ShahidnUSA says:
    April 24th, 2010 11:47 am

    I say Dear Pakistanis, somehow charge the batteries of your ipods, boomboxes and come out of your dark houses and dance on the streets instead of protesting. You have been lied and fooled.
    Get out of your schools, where your were taught crap (sorry teachers). Once you are out of the country, you would have to learn everything all over again. You would say I didnt know this, hmm I didnt know this either.
    For eg, I didnt know that in bullfighting as cruel as it is, red color is used not to anger bulls (bulls are colorblind) but a moving object or national color of Purtagal.
    I flew over Arizona and I saw plenty of vacant land (desert with long cactuses) where you all can live happily after and never have an electricity shortage.
    Let the ignorant Mullahs and corrupt, dishonest and incompetent minister (Liars cum politicians) rule themselves. First price hikes then conserve (unacceptable and inconcievable) We will bomb them later.

    For now just shut up and listen to the mooosac!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd8jh9QYfEs&feature=channel

  22. Jamshed says:
    April 24th, 2010 12:49 pm

    According to today’s Dawn,another 25 % increase in the power tariff has been proposed.This has become a regular occurence,repeated every few months.The inevitable cycle of protests and violence has started again and I don’t really blame the protesters.

  23. Nadeem says:
    April 24th, 2010 1:58 pm

    No one wants to take responsibility in Pakistan. It is so easy to blame the government even when in this case the even bigger culprits are the users themselves and their wastage. In a more rational society more expensive energy would make people use energy more wisely. In Pakistan even that seems not to work.

  24. Salman says:
    April 24th, 2010 4:07 pm

    @Nadeem:

    well thats because in Pakistan if there is a shortage of food, the govt. and all the WISE people will come out with blaming the rest that they eat too much !!!

    and i guess that time is going to come very soon.. it has already happened with sugar.. “so what if theres a sugar crisis, just use less sugar” !!!

    we’ve already starting this with electricity.. “just stop using electricity to produce your income, so what if u have less electricity.. conserve, because its what the WEST is doing” !!!

    but when u tell that to people.. u know what.. hunger is so loud in the background.. they can’t listen.. no matter how WISE you sound to yourself..

  25. Pasha says:
    April 24th, 2010 4:50 pm

    The type of energy wastage we see in Pakistan, not just by the rich but even by middle and lower-middle class households is maddening, but the worst culprits are really the industrialists including the small manufacturing industries. It is really the unpaid arrears by many of them as we have seen recently that is causing a big part of the problem and the load-shedding. We should crack down hard on everyone who has not paid past arrears of electricity charges.

  26. ali b says:
    April 24th, 2010 6:12 pm

    the government has conceived more projects at the the energy summit but in the absence of proper mechanism to translate these into concrete action, all of these plans will remain on paper and the government will be in a reactionary phase instead of being proactive, the summit also asks consumers for more sacrifices and has also been called anti trade by many.Only time will tell whether we will see light at the end of the tunnel or more darkness ahead.

  27. Watan Aziz says:
    April 24th, 2010 6:50 pm

    Daulat hai apne mulk ki bayhudd-o-bayhisaab
    Hon’ge ham aap mulk ki daulat se faiz’yaab

    -Jagan Nath Azad

    Does this make sense to anyone?

  28. April 25th, 2010 4:37 am


    Are we really serious about energy conservation? And, by ‘we’ I mean all of us, not just the government

    No. And I learnt it further while having a conversation with a local shop keeper who was using 5-6 tube lights for no valid reason. The shopkeeper plainly refused to close his shop according to newly prescribed timings.He even refused to turn extra lights off. When I told him that its not only govt’s responsibility to tackle with crisis but awam also needs to step forward, he simply replied,”Hum Paisay tu detey hain”. while that poor guy don’t understand that Money just can’t do every thing.

    I think as a nation we don’t realize that our luxury can hurt someone else. Thanks to capitalism we are more inclined towards money than human values.

  29. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    April 25th, 2010 4:44 am

    True_Friend: You are so bholay. China and Iran offered cheap electricity to Pakistan but so called secular and radical democratic government did not find any backdoor for corruption hence they rejecteted it.

    This guy,Adnan Sabzwari has proposed a formula of generating electricity via reverse polarity but govt will not listen him because this would be the cheapest solution hence no chance of corruption.

    pkpolitics.com/discuss/topic/pranav-mistry-vs-adnan-sabzwari

  30. Aamer Aziz says:
    April 27th, 2010 9:34 am

    The blame game goes on .. the govt says it was mismanagement of the past .. the people say it is the govt .. and the people themselves do not “conserve”.
    40% of electricity generated is lost to corruption, theft, line losses and old inefficient systems. if we can generate all the installed capacity and reduce the losses to “acceptable” 5-7% we would be self sufficient in electricity for years to come WITHOUT any need to generate more electricity for years to come. The 2 days energy conservation conference and big fanfare announcements of impractical and idiotic suggestions (closing shops, two days off, pay light saving) is just the icing on the cake .. the new “energy measures” dont even mention modernizing the existing system, revive energy production units which are lying closed due to circular debt and, most importantly, to curb electricity theft.
    The first thing govt should do is to make strict laws for energy thieves which should be deterrence. Then enforce without exception a nation wide effort to bring all electricity users to legal connections. Instead of spending a million rupee on making falshy TV commercials, give that money to a task force to go into the cities and check electricity meters and get rid of electricity theft. Then only can energy conversation ideas be implemented. Who would even want to conserve electricity if they are getting it for free?
    Then come the big projects of energy generation – be it dams or thar coal project or nuclear power etc. Add to it alternate sources like wind, solar, wave and geothermal.
    One absolutely fails to understand that why there should be an energy crisis for 170 million people in the 21st century.

  31. Anonymous says:
    April 27th, 2010 5:34 pm

    Charity begins at home, and, by extension, loadshedding should begin at home, too, of the Prime Ministers and the Chief Ministers, first of all. And our ever-grinning President, for that matter.

    I think the Pakistani nation will stop protesting if the leaders themselves prove themselves to be one of the people, and turn their own central air conditioning off for a few hours each day, and just have a few photos taken sitting/having meetings in front of a table fan. There should be no shame in it. No more 5,000 dollar designer suits, and no more bottles of chilled mineral water on display, please. such a display of unity will be the first step towards calming the seething hostility (totally justified, I must add).

    My own experience of load shedding is that it has been the most horrible feeling I have had so far. And I am talking of almost twenty years ago, when things were ten times better than today. When the ceiling fan stops rotating at 2 in the morning, and your breath becomes laborious and the mosquitoes step up their relentless attack, that is hell, let there be no doubt about it.

  32. Ramla A. says:
    April 27th, 2010 5:45 pm

    Adil, please look into Pakistan Sustainability Network.
    http://www.facebook.com/sustainablepak

    This is a network of individuals and organizations that are doing on-the-ground work. Recently launched Clean Pakistan campaign:
    http://www.whatswiththeclimate.org/2010/04/27/psn-initiates-clean-pakistan-campaign/

    The newly-launched website of PSN:
    http://sustainablepakistan.org/

    This is the kind of citizen-led initiative that can create real change. The need is to have more citizens involved. We need 180 million people taking small steps — thereby making a giant leap happen.

  33. readinglord says:
    April 28th, 2010 1:14 am

    I wonder why don’t they manage demand to keep it within supply. There was no load shedding when there was no National Grid and WAPDA…and demagogic conscienceless politicians; as then demand for electricity connection (effective demand for power) was kept within capacity for supply by the respective power supply company.

    If they are serious they can control demand even now by banning total use of ACs (The use of which in any case is immoral as well)by substituting it with room coolers and stopping free and wasteful use of power by WAPDA itself and its free use in tribal territory, the burden of all of which is being borne mainly by Punjab and the Federal Area, where the loss is the least.

Have Your Say (Bol, magar piyar say)