The State Of Pakistan’s Energy Sector – Facts And Figures
A poor electrical power system is characterised by instability in voltage and frequency, regular power interruptions, unscheduled power reduction, presence of harmonics, demand-supply gaps leading to load shedding, and more. Many if not all of these are also the characteristics of the electrical power system of Pakistan.
Pakistan offers the most expensive electricity service in the region, severely compromising its manufacturing and export segments. A comparison of electricity prices, in cents per kilowatt-hour, between Pakistan, India and Bangladesh is given below:The electrical system of Pakistan depends on a large number of parameters. Regarding these, some major global firms report the following facts and figures:
- In a 2017 survey conducted by World Bank, Pakistan ranked 151 out of 198 countries in terms of accessibility to electricity, with an access rate of 71.092 percent. This means that more than 63 million Pakistanis still lack a connection to the national grid. This gray area was particularly highlighted in the COVID 19 pandemic when work from home added to the woes of many people from erstwhile Fata, much of Balochistan and the rural areas of KP, Sindh and Punjab.
- International Energy Agency suggests that over a quarter of the population of the country does not have a direct connection to the main grid, even though 85 percent of those deprived of this are able to pay for electricity, should they be provided with the basic amenity. This shows that the lack of access is because of a lack of infrastructure rather than monetary aspects.
- Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has ranked Pakistan at 130th place out of 162 countries in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 – affordable and clean energy – with a global index score of 55.6 out of 100 and 15.4 percent less than the region’s average.
- On the system average interruption duration index, World Bank counts Pakistan as the worst in Asia Pacific region, with a duration of interruptions going up to 100 hours per customer per year. This puts Pakistan behind nearly every other country except a few island nations (Figure 1). It may also be mentioned that the data used for this study was obtained from K-Electric, whose performance may yet be better than the overall national average.
- The global competitiveness report issued by World Economic Forum places Pakistan at 115th position out of 141 countries in terms of power quality.
- According to “In The Dark”, another World Bank publication, South Asia has the most unreliable power supply in the world and Pakistan has the worst of it.
- The World Energy Council defines “World Energy Trilemma” as a measure of three main parameters that make up energy sustainability: energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability. The firm publishes an annual report on these factors. According to its 2019 report, Pakistan ranked at 110th out of 128 countries, with a Trilemma score of 49.6/100. A time series of these parameters suggests that Pakistan has not improved much in any of the three criteria in the last 20 years (Figure 1.2).
- The Energy Transition Outlook 2020, a report by DNV GL providing global and regional forecasts up to 2050, says that Pakistan, unlike its neighboring country India, targets coal as a way out of gas shortage and an increasing reliance on oil-based generation. Pakistan has also decided to phase out 2900MW RLNG-based generation by 2022.
At home, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics data suggests that Pakistan annually imports private generating machines worth above 1 billion USD and that its imports are proportional to the country’s power cuts. In 2018-19, when load shedding and unscheduled power cuts were relatively low, the purchase of these generators decreased but then shot up again during the power cuts of summer 2020.
Interruptions in power supply and/or higher electricity prices have caused social unrest for both public and industrial sectors. Its impact can be estimated from the fact that during the past two decades, Pakistan’s exports have grown only by a factor of 3, while the same figure stands at 12, 9, 21 and 8 times growth in exports for China, India, Vietnam and Bangladesh, respectively. Electricity may not be the only factor behind this grim statistic but it is certainly one of the most important ones. A continuous supply of electricity at cheap rates is one of the most important determinants of a country’s ease of doing business and a failure to ensure this quickly translates into a severely handicapped economy.
An even more alarming situation looms ahead as the impacts of climate change are increasingly becoming clearer. It is widely realised now that Pakistan is the fifth most affected country due to climate change, incurring a loss of up to 500 lives annually and witnessing 152 extreme weather events between 1999 and 2018. Record-breaking rains in the southern part of Sindh in 2020’s monsoon, heatwaves in Karachi and rising sea levels covering hundreds of thousands of acres of fertilized land in saline water are fresh evidence of this phenomenon and what we face. A country so badly at the mercy of climate change cannot afford but to adopt sustainable and green development urgently.
The trembling economy of the country direly needs foreign investments to uplift its wrecked industrial sector, and efforts to make this possible need to be made with utmost urgency. In this context, we really cannot rely anymore on imported fuel to be the backbone of our power system if we want to take the country out of the economic and environmental jeopardy it faces.
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