The power conundrum
With the power shortage that we have today, it is easy to fall into the blame game with the government, current and prior, for all the mistakes they made with regards to the dismal power situation. The situation has several facets, from a desire to keep status quo in order to keep the masses in misery and avoid focusing on real issues of corruption and mismanagement, to downright poor planning and abject governance added to a lack of foresight. I however, digress.
Consider for a moment that perhaps along with the government, we as individuals are to be blamed as well. And that blame goes right across all strata of society, though the burden of it does fall on the educated and well to do.
In most of our larger cities, most middle class families have become reliant on UPS back-up systems for when power goes. Makes sense doesn’t it, power goes but yours doesn’t. Brilliant! Till the system of course has to be charged again, en masse load shedding means everyone’s UPS kicks in at the same time, this of course in turn means they get drained together, and when electrical supply resumes, they all start to charge together. Just imagine the massive drain those UPS are on our electrical grid. What if, as individuals, we charged those UPS on solar power instead of relying on the grid for energy? It’s a small step, but collectively it makes a difference.
Ironing clothes for a dozen individuals in every other home is another such major drain on power, large families tend to spend a lot of time ironing clothes and the amount of power that requires is an absurd number of MW if calculated. There has got to be an alternative, even if it is an iron again, albeit with far better efficiency. Our engineering universities should have allocated projects based on needs rather than allow students to pick the same boring mundane projects year after year.
When designing homes, architects keep in mind the position of the sun, the windows and flared arches are then appropriately positioned. But when building homes, why is the insulation factor all but left out? Improved insulation would help keep our homes at a suitable temperature and reduce our dependence on continuous air conditioning. The issue that crops up over and over is why we haven’t, as individuals molded our research and our thinking to our needs. Blaming the government is easy, being a positive contributor to society not so much.
A power shortage doesn’t even make sense in a country as richly endowed as ours. A vast river network for hydropower, nuclear know-how, massive coal deposits, a long coastline for wind generation, massive solar potential, biodiesel raw material in the form of sugar cane and molasses; and those are the most obvious ones. The good thing that they are so numerous, for the need of the hour isn’t to just overcome a massive shortfall, if that is all we achieve it is a very poor show indeed. How many of our large prominent businessmen, who invest all over the world quietly; have entered into a power generation scheme not based on furnace oil? None. Why? The cheap easy quick buck is in furnace oil, why think long term or for the general good of the people.
Our actual need is to make this electricity available at a far cheaper rate then the existing rates. How are our industries are supposed to compete internationally with a massive cost base, is beyond me. An ample and cheaper supply of electricity will also give birth to many sectors of industry that are electricity-centric. And here’s a rather trivial look at things, with better cooling facilities, we would have better productivity in terms of output and performance and perhaps tempers would be less flared than they are.
A friend once said to me that a western country, specifically the UK, has good weather or else they’d suffer just like we do with power shortages. The brutal truth is that if our people lived in a cold climate such as theirs, we’d be frozen alive with no gas availability to heat homes and they’d be air conditioned with ample power here too. It’s not about the land, it’s about how you tackle your environs, and that is where we have failed.
Faraz Zafar is exploring Islamic Finance and an avid trekker who often muses about the happenings around him.
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.