Essay about Creative Solution to the Energy Crisis
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Creative Solution to the Energy Crisis
Picture yourself driving along the winding country roads in central Vermont, it is early fall, your windows are open and Joni Mitchell is gracing the airwaves with her soulful melodies. You are at one with the world, you take a deep breath, inhaling the crisp autumn air and then it hits you- the smell. At first it’s just a whiff, a hint of something sour. In no time you’re rolling up your window as full on nausea engulfs you. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty two weeks a year there is one certainty: cow shit. The more tasteful term is manure, but for all of those in the world who live in areas with more bovine citizens than human ones, the smell merits no such enlightened…show more content…
The waste is held at 100 degrees Fahrenheit to allow the bacteria to digest the manure and release a combination of natural gasses, the main one being methane (ibid). As the pressure builds inside the digester the gas is fed into a modified natural gas motor. The motor turns an electrical generator which produces both electricity and heat (ibid). Much of the electricity produced is used immediately by the farm and any excess is fed back to the grid. The heat generated by the motor is also put to use maintaining the elevated temperature in the digester (ibid).. The byproducts of this operation are separated and the solids allowed to dry. The solid wastes are, surprisingly, odorless and can be used as bedding for the herd or sold to other farms for the same purpose. The liquid byproducts can be spread on fields as fertilizer and reduce the need for imported petroleum-based fertilizers (ibid).
Cow Power, is the name CVPS has given to the digestion of methane, generated by anaerobic digestion of cow manure to produce electricity. Ironically, this type of energy production utilizes the waste produced by one the more wasteful industries in the country. On average 800-1200 kWh of energy is spent on each cow in a dairy herd every year (Energy Use n.d.). The average dairy farm in Vermont claims 115 cows, which has increased dramatically from the mean 70 cows just fifteen years ago(Agriview 2002).
EMERGING in 2006-07, Pakistan’s energy crisis still haunts the country — be it lengthy load-shedding, the growing demand-supply gap, energy insecurity, increasing reliance on imports and circular debt. In recent years, it has become more complicated both in dimension and intensity.
Has there been any effort to determine what went wrong? Apparently not. The energy crisis did not take us by surprise; from a surplus of power in 2001 to a deficiency in 2006, the period was long enough for us to have taken action. The crisis has been cultivated by years of negligence and wrongdoing. Senior Wapda officials were raising the alarm as early as 2003, only to be snubbed by key decision-makers. The Nandipur power project is a classic example, speaking volumes for how successive regimes since 2007, when the project that was set to become operational, have jeopardised it.
Has there been any effort to evaluate the impact of the energy crisis on Pakistan’s GDP and macro-economy? It does not seem so. The energy crisis has cost the national economy dearly, not only the loss to GDP in terms of missing energy due to the demand-supply gap but also the loss to industrial and commercial activities due to load-shedding and flight of capital from the country. Safe estimates suggest that it has cost the national economy over $100 billion.
Has there been any account produced to determine the consequent deindustrialisation and flight of capital? Again, no. The crisis has played havoc with our industrial activities. In industrial cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Gujranwala and Faisalabad, thousands of factories have shut down or are operating at the bare minimum level, which has resulted in huge flight of capital as investments have shifted elsewhere. What a shame that it was not just more advanced countries like Canada, Malaysia and UAE that saw a major influx of Pakistani investors, but countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka too.
Ten years on, are we any closer to solving the issue?
Has there been any effort to analyse the impact on micro-level socio-economics? No. The crisis has heavily dented the socioeconomic fabric of society, reportedly resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs mainly due to skewed industrial and commercial activities. With those affected often being the sole breadwinners of their households, the situation has led to dire socioeconomic implications for millions of people. In the absence of any social welfare support, being pushed towards crime and other forms of moral corruption has been the unfortunate, inevitable outcome for many.
Have lessons been learned? No. With vision and commitment, challenges can be turned into opportunities. And opportunities have definitely arisen, but only for certain individuals rather than the masses or the country at large. Many who have been observing closely argue that the energy crisis is another example of how crises are crafted to serve vested interests.
The entire energy sector, in terms of administration and functions, needed to be overhauled; malpractices and wrongdoings that caused the crisis to be corrected; and projects and deals transparently handled. But the state of affairs shows that little has changed; in fact, strong efforts are needed to ensure transparency and merit. Moreover, reckless decision-making must be avoided. It is unfortunate that powerful lobbies still appear to be dictating key energy decisions.
Has any goal-oriented policy and road map been developed to drive Pakistan towards a sustainable energy future? Efforts here too have been sparse. The diverse and complicated nature of the crisis demanded a paradigm shift in the modus operandi: a holistic and coherent energy policy, a goal-oriented approach and an implementation road map. But the situation is without direction. Various ministries, departments and cells still work haphazardly without any meaningful coordination. No value-engineering behind the projects is emerging. Important issues — an imbalance in the energy fuel mix, addressing our energy security by lowering the reliance on imports, and the lack of utilisation of cheap and indigenous hydropower and renewable resources — do not appear to be challenges that cause concern to the authorities.
But the energy crisis can be resolved. Pakistan has the potential, capacity and opportunity to overcome this challenge. Our existing power plants, currently underperforming for a wide range of administrative and technical reasons, need to run optimally. Vast, untapped indigenous resources including hydropower, renewables and fossil fuels can help with energy security and affordability.
Energy conservation, the cornerstone of energy strategies across the world, has to be embedded in the national energy fabric, not just in letter but also in spirit. Our human resources are competent enough to rise to the occasion. What is really missing is the combination of vision, strategy and commitment on the part of policymakers.
The writer is the author of Energy Crisis in Pakistan: Origins, Challenges and Sustainable Solutions.
Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2017