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Everything is anticlockwise in Pakistan

Qamar Bashir

By: Qamar Bashir

Ironically, everything in Pakistan seems to be upside down and anticlockwise. The country often experiences the opposite of what is typically needed for sustained and rapid progress and development. Major decisions that heavily impact the country are often made behind closed doors, based on hearsay, opinions, desires and vested interests rather than deep research and thorough analysis. Factors such as considering all pros and cons, anticipating all possible outcomes, identifying stakeholders, and assessing the policy’s impact on them are often overlooked. Additionally, there is a lack of measuring benefits versus losses. In a more ideal scenario, policies would be tested on a smaller target population to evaluate outcomes before being implemented nationwide.

In our case, knee-jerk reactions often lead to policies being arbitrarily imposed on the nation without thorough consideration of their implications. Only after these policies fail to produce the desired results do authorities conduct studies to identify their faults, a process that should ideally precede policy implementation.

For instance, the government imposed a policy of telemetry to encourage businesses and households to adopt solar energy. This policy aimed to help produce cost-effective electricity, reduce the burden on the country’s fragile distribution system, decrease the import bill of LNG, Furnace Oil, and diesel, fill the demand-supply gap, avoid and reduce load shedding, and add excess energy to the national grid.

Initially, the policy faced challenges in gaining traction. However, following multiple increases in electricity charges, which became so exorbitant that even upper-middle-class households earning up to Rs 300,000 per month struggled to make payments without sacrificing essential necessities such as children’s education, decent clothing, nutritious food, and rent payments if they did not own their accommodation.

 Telemetry emerged as the most viable solution to address the hefty electricity charges. As demand for telemetry increased, a robust supply chain developed to cater to this growing demand. creating many job opportunities all along the supply chain. Households with some savings left, invested in telemetry and began benefiting from reduced electricity bills, while contributing cost-effective and clean energy to the national grid, saving millions in the process to the government.

All of a sudden, the government decided to reverse this policy, citing illogical, irrational, and outrageous reasons, which even in their hearts they knew had no basis and would hurt people and the country immensely.

The first reason given was that the government is supposedly subsidizing affluent households by paying them Rs. 19, and in some cases Rs. 22, for each unit of electricity transferred to the national grid. However, this claim is inaccurate. In reality, it is the households that are subsidizing the government. The government sells electricity to consumers at the rate of Rs. 65 per unit, while it purchases the electricity from households at Rs. 19, which is 3.4 times less than the selling price.

If the government decides to punish people for generating clean and environmentally friendly energy by either reducing the purchase price or reversing the policy altogether, households may install batteries to store the energy instead of transferring it to the national grid which would deprive the national grid from cost effective and clean source or energy.

Furthermore, the government is unfairly charging affluent households for converting to solar systems, portraying them as if they are committing a heinous crime and making them feel guilty for increasing the burden of electricity charges on the poor segment of society. In reality, the failure of the government to pay back hefty electricity charges to the Independent Power Producers is a major factor contributing to the ballooning electricity circular debt, and the telemetry policy has nothing to do with it.

The government is also unfairly charging affluent households as if they are violating the telemetry policy for converting too fast on solar energy, without realizing that it was the duty and responsibility of the policy makers and the planners to determine the speed of conversion on solar system through automatic check and control system, notwithstanding the fact that the government should encourage fast conversion of households to clean energy instead of terming them some kind of criminals instead of rewarded them for fast conversion of the country to the clean electricity system.

The government is adamant about shifting the burden of their incompetencies to affluent households without realizing that responsible governments worldwide are encouraging and providing meaningful incentives for households to convert to clean energy sources.

In their eagerness to punish households for the success of their own policy, they overlook many examples of countries where telemetry is encouraged due to its overwhelming benefits.

Successful implementations can be seen in countries like Germany, Australia, and the United States, where households are encouraged to adopt solar energy systems due to numerous benefits. Firstly, at the household level, such systems can significantly reduce electricity bills, providing long-term savings. They offer energy independence, particularly in Pakistan with unreliable grid power, and can serve as a backup power source during outages. Additionally, excess energy generated can be sold back to the grid, further offsetting costs and potentially providing an additional income stream.

On a national or country level, promoting solar energy reduces reliance on fossil fuels, which enhances energy security and reduces the risk of price fluctuations in fossil fuel markets.

Diversifying the energy mix with renewables like solar also helps to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon emissions. This shift toward cleaner energy sources can lead to improvements in air quality and public health while contributing to biodiversity conservation by reducing habitat destruction and pollution associated with fossil fuel extraction and use.

Governments worldwide have introduced various incentives to promote solar energy adoption. For instance, Germany’s feed-in tariff scheme guaranteed fixed payment rates for renewable energy producers, including households with solar panels, leading to a rapid increase in installations.

In the United States, federal and state-level tax credits, rebates, and other incentives help reduce upfront costs for households and businesses. These incentives not only benefit individual households but also society as a whole by reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality, and creating jobs in the renewable energy sector.

Foregoing in view, instead of blaming affluent households for a crime they never committed, the government should devise a plan to subsidize the poor segments of the society to convert their households to solar systems.

The government should also consider phasing out Independent Power Producers (IPPs) that were created due to incompetence, lack of relevant knowledge and foresight by government policy makers, planners, and implementers.

A third viable option is to reduce electricity prices, which would automatically discourage further conversion to solar systems, though this is highly inadvisable.

Furthermore, the government should, in all fairness, bring to justice all those who were responsible for the installation of IPPs, grid losses, electricity theft, making faulty and short-sighted policy decisions, and those who received massive kickbacks in the process. They should desist from victim-blaming, which in this instance is not the government but the people of Pakistan.

By: Qamar Bashir

Press Secretary to the President (Rtd)

Former Press Minister at Embassy of Pakistan to France

Former MD, SRBC






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