Pakistan’s Energy Crisis – A Holistic Picture [2 of 2]

Despite the fact that the country is facing huge power crisis for last 11 years, our successive governments did not do any thing to thwart the impending crisis. The demand had started growing in P. Musharraf’s eight years rule which peaked in the current years, but the establishment during these periods has done nothing to generate electricity from other alternative resources. Vested interests including powerful petroleum lobby are big hurdle in the development of power sector in Pakistan. Though, there are frequent talks of exploiting alternative sources for power generation but practically the result still remains a big zero. Given that our energy mix is highly dependent on oil and gas, the country spends around $10-12 billion a year on the import of crude oil and deficit petroleum products. 



by Ashraf Malik, Uzbekistan


Is there any other positive way? Let us look at the energy mix of Pakistan and compare it with that of other countries. The statistics of energy generation by different sources in some countries is given below:

Table 1: Energy Generation by Resource (%)

Pakistan          India           China         USA       World





































::::: According to the Energy Sector Task Force Report dated October 2010, coal contributes about 9.2% to the energy mix. Currently, the capacity of coal-fired electricity generating units is about 150 MW. However, the contribution of coal to electricity generation is only 0.1%.

Look at the proportion of power generated from oil. It is highest, 34.9%, in Pakistan compared to 4.1% in India, 1.3% in the USA, and 0.7% in China. Other countries are generating highest proportion of power from coal; India 68.6%, China 79.1%, and the USA 48.8%; compared to Pakistan of only 0.1%. Other countries are using coal rather than oil for power generation as the former is a much cheaper source of electric energy.

Let’s have a look at the cost of generation from various sources.

Table 2: Average Electricity Generating Cost in 2008

Exchange Rate Rs/$=86

Power Plant




Nuclear          US$             Rs.
  CHASNUPP (C-1) Nuclear        0.030           2.58
Generating Companies
   Guddu (5-13) Gas     0.025           2.15
   MuzaffarGarh Oil+Gas     0.080           6.88
HUBCO Oil     0.087           7.48
KAPCO Oil+Gas     0.068           5.85
Habibullah Coastal Gas     0.039           3.35
Fauji Kabirwala Gas     0.045           3.87
Tarbela Water     0.005           0.43
Ghazi Brotha Water     0.015           1.29

The cost of generation should not be confused with the consumer-end cost as the later includes costs and losses of transmission, distribution; overhead costs; thefts; etc. Consider the relative cost of generation; it is highest for the oil units (Rs. 7.48 per unit) and lowest for hydel (Rs. 0.43-1.29 per unit). According to some recent studies, the electricity generated from furnace oil costs Rs 22 per KWh at consumer end. On the other hand, electricity generated from coal is the cheapest among the thermal power sources. It, however, depends upon the relative price of each resource.

In India, electricity generated from coal is cheaper than that generated by large hydropower plants. It is obvious that we can follow the rest of the world and reduce our average cost of energy by changing our generation mix by adding more coal-fired and hydel units and reducing to the minimum our dependence on oil, which is expensive and is one of the main drain on our meager foreign earnings.

What a coincidence that nature has blessed us with both, these two cheaper sources of energy! Identified coal reserves are 217 million tons (mt) in Balochistan, 235 mt in Punjab, and 90 mt in Khyber-Pakhtun-Khwa. Sindh has reserves of 185 billion tons which alone is sufficient to generate 100,000 MW for more than 300 years. About 50 million tons of coal production per year would feed 9,000-10,000 MW of power plants.

Regarding hydel, we have huge water resources and identified dam sites with a potential of more than 54,000 MW, of which we are using only about 12%. By using more of coal and hydel, we can also overcome the gas shortage by minimizing the use of gas for power generation and instead use it for domestic consumption and vehicles.

It is not coincidence that in good old days, until 1991, hydropower accounted for about 45% of all electricity generate in the country. But by 2009, that share dropped to 33%. This shift in the higher share of thermal in the mix has pushed the tariff upwards, creating financial difficulties for the public as well as for the government.

From the foregoing, it is obvious that the key factor in overcoming the energy crisis is to shift the energy mix to minimize dependence on a costly generation using imported oil and instead to have a higher proportion of generation from coal and hydel using our local resources.

The next important factor is governance in power distribution particularly in Hyderabad, Peshawar, and Karachi, where distribution losses (mainly because of energy thefts) are 3-5 times the losses in other distribution companies.

Pakistan has a very high potential of other renewable resource like solar and wind but their invest costs are high. Potential from wind is estimated at 40,000 MW. Potential of solar energy is also very high with solar radiation of 2 MWh per square meter and 3,000 hours of sunshine per year which is among the highest in the world.

Many areas of power savings have also been identified. Potential of energy saving in Pakistan is huge. On the demand side, the sector-wise realizable savings potential is: domestic 25.8%, commercial 23.9%, and agriculture 19.6%. On the supply side, we have saving potential of about 13.8% by implementing improvements in generation, transmission, and distribution.

Overall, we have a potential of saving of more than 15%, which is equivalent to about 50% reduction in net oil imports.


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8 replies to “Pakistan’s Energy Crisis – A Holistic Picture [2 of 2]

    1. Although the PPPP regime has created a terrible mess in this land of the pure, yet it would be rather unfair to put all blames for the current energy crisis in Pakistan on the PPPP. Like in other spheres of the economy, it awfully contributed to an escalation of the energy crisis in Pakistan, yet the onus of the present state of affairs with respect to energy shortage in Pakistan also goes much to the discredit of Gen. [R] Pervez Musharraf who ruled the country with army danda in his hand for almost a decade, but did not do anything to increase even a single unit of electricity to be added in our power grid system.

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