Cabinet okays ‘National Energy Conservation Plan’

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet on Tuesday approved the National Energy Conservation Plan, introducing certain measures to ensure judicious utilization of national resources.

“The approval to the conservation plan has been accorded in line with the advice of the Power Division. It will come into force at once across the country,” Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said said while unveiling the salient features of the austerity plan here at a media briefing after the cabinet meeting.

He was flanked by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb, Minister for Energy (Power Division) Khurram Dastgir Khan, Minister for Housing and Works Maulana Abdul Wasay, Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman and Minister for Defence Production Israr Tareen.

Elaborating the main contours of the plan, Khawaja Asif said restaurants, hotels, and markets would close down by 8:30 p.m. and marriage halls by 10 p.m. “With this initiative, which has been taken in consultation with trade bodies, there will be a saving of around Rs 62 billion [annually]. He said additional duty would also be imposed on inefficient electric fans, whose production would be halted from July 1, 2023.

The use of energy-efficient fans, which were easily available in the market, would help save Rs 15 billion [annually] as they consumed about 40 to 60 watts of electricity as compared to the old ones consuming about 120 to 130 watts of electricity. He said there would a saving of approximately Rs 23 billion [annually] with the use of light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

Khawaja Asif said the government was in negotiation with motorcycle manufacturing companies for the production of electric bikes. “The motorcycles that run on petrol will slowly be phased out. We have already been importing e-bikes and had started negotiations with motorcycle companies for the modification of existing ones […], this will help save us around Rs 86 billion.” He expressed the hope that with the introduction of e-bikes, the prices of existing motorcycles would considerably decrease. However, the government would ensure a price check on the e-bikes, he added.

If all the energy conserving measures were translated into action, the country would hopefully save billions of rupees, the minister remarked. He said the Ministry of Information would be running a campaign on social media, electronic and print media to create awareness among the public about the measures being taken under the austerity plan.

The minister urged the nation to “normalize” its behavioural patterns as the country was in a ‘grave economic crisis’. “The country can’t afford the culture of waste [available national resources] of its citizens anymore.” He said all stakeholders, including the traders’ community, were taken on board about the decisions to be made by the cabinet for the conservation of energy, which would have long-term effects.

Khawaja said the other countries had already adopted ways and means to change the lifestyle of their people, which the incumbent government intended to introduce in Pakistan. “The lifestyle of Pakistanis is totally different from the rest of world in terms of market and office timings, and use of energy, including oil and power. The sustainable best practices observed in this regard elsewhere in the world are different from Pakistan.” He noted that Pakistan was blessed with bright sunlight 365 days a year – a huge renewable energy potential but it was bearing heavy cost for energy produced on imported fuel.

“Today, symbolically no light was on in the cabinet meeting room, with all curtains removed from window pans, and the cabinet members worked in daylight,” the minister added. He suggested architectural changes for more vibrantly luminous houses. The prime minister, he said, had directed that all the Federal Government departments should ensure 30% decline in energy use as there was no other choice. “He (prime minister) also advised to abstain from unnecessary use of electricity,” he added.

The minister underlined that some 29,000 megawatts (MW) electricity was consumed during the summer and 12,000 MW in the winter. Approximately 17,000 MW more electricity was used in the summer, including 5,300 MW by air conditioners and 12,000 MW by fans. For reducing electricity consumption by fans, the government was working on a programme to introduce energy efficient fans, he added. “No production of incandescent bulbs will be allowed after February 1, 2023 and a duty will also be imposed on them,” Khawaja Asif said. Only two factories were producing the above bulbs, one in Lahore and the other near Peshawar, and there would be no effect on their business as they also produced other quality bulbs, he added.

The decision, he said, would help the country save Rs 22 billion per annum, whereas the Federal Government departments would have to install energy efficient electric gadgets, including fans and LED bulbs to avert excessive power consumption. Moreover, a restriction was imposed on use of inefficient electric instruments in all Federal Government departments, he added.

The minister said reforms were underway in housing societies’ bi-laws and building codes to ensure energy efficient infrastructure. He said installation of conical baffles in geysers within year was made mandatory. The baffle provided cost intensive heating for warm water as “it traps heat using less energy”, which would help save Rs 92 billion per year.

The street lights, as a symbolic measure, would be illuminated only at 50% capacity and it would provide an incentive to the public for energy conservation and would help save Rs 4 billion per year, he said. The minister mentioned that electric bikes would be introduced across the country to reduce petrol consumption as motorbikes alone consumed $3 billion petrol per year. “A gradual phase-out plan will be implemented for the existing motorcycles,” he said.

E-bikes with dual-battery, he added, would be introduced , which would be though costly but the government was working on a financing plan for the same. The loan amount would be easily paid by the bike owner as he / she would get respite in the fuel charges. He underlined that a mass awareness campaign would be made on the Energy Conservation Plan through print, electronic and social media. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) would ensure that all private and radio channels earmark 10% of their commercial time for public awareness messages, he added.

The cabinet also decided that the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (NEECA) would run a comprehensive public awareness campaign for water and energy conservation and PEMRA would ensure its compliance by the media. For water conservation, he said, wholehearted measures would be taken, including review of water tariff for rural and urban areas. The building control authorities were directed to ensure water conservation measures in housing societies, incorporating the same in their by-laws.

As regards work from home, he said a committee under the leadership of prime minister would closely look into the matter from all aspects and finalize its suggestions within next 10 days for cabinet decision. “The Federal Cabinet after the recommendation of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination approved reduction in the maximum retail prices of 20 medicines,” Khawaja Asif said.

He said the cabinet also directed the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to issue a separate tax directory of the parliamentarians so that the masses could know how much tax the policy makers pay. Responding to media queries, he said a delegation of federal ministers visited Quetta and Karachi to consult provincial government officials and business community representatives on energy conservation measures, including markets closure timings. “There was a by and large consensus among them on the austerity measures. A Traders’ Association delegation also had a meeting here and majority of them supported the step.”

He said President Arif Alvi was also briefed on the plan and he not only supported it but also gave more constructive recommendations. The minister said the energy conservation plan would be a permanent feature and to be enforced at par with the world. Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman said the country was already late to take the decision regarding energy conservation.

“The world has introduced such measures decades ago. The behavioural change is a must and the media support is imperative in this regard. When there is no acceptance from society then it will be difficult to reap its (plan’s) benefits,” she added. She said despite decline in water resources the country was among the world top five nations having excessive per capita water usage.