markets to shut at 8:30pm to save national energy

ISLAMABAD          -         As the country is facing acute energy crisis with meagre opportunities to increase power generation, the government on Tuesday decided to shut markets and wedding halls early to execute the national energy conservation plan. “The federal cabinet has approved the incumbent government’s plan to save energy and reduce its consumption nationwide with remedial measures and austerity strategy,” Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif told the press while briefing them on the decisions taken during the cabinet meeting held with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the chair here yesterday. Kh Asif, who was flanked by Minister for Power Engineer Ghulam Dastgir Khan, Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, shared details of the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Plan and said that markets would shut by 8:30pm while wedding halls by 10pm. He said, “We need to change our lifestyle” and added that the energy conservation plan approved by the cabinet is to be implemented throughout the country. The development comes as the government resolves to reduce circular debt in the energy sector. Kh Asif said that the policy will help save Rs 60 billion. He noted that many countries were already running on energy-efficient models, however Pakistan’s markets and offices remained open past midnight. He said the production of fans running on electricity will be stopped by July. He stated that inefficient fans use around 120- 130 watts of electricity, and globally fans consuming less energy were available. He added that the import duty on “inefficient” fans would be increased. 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. Asif also revealed that after February 1 incandescent bulbs would not be manufactured and additional taxes will be imposed on the ones that were imported. He stated that an additional Rs22 billion could be saved by the initiative. “No lights were on in the cabinet meeting today. The meeting was held in full sunlight,” he said, providing an example for the country to follow. He said that the federal cabinet planned to conserve 30 percent of the electricity used by government departments, which would save Rs62 billion. The plan includes all government and court buildings, officers and housing societies. Asif also said that the government had decided to use street lights alternatively which he claimed would save Rs4 billion. Additionally, the cabinet decided that only half of all street lights would remain powered on across the nation which would save Rs4 billion. The minister also disapproved of shops opening at noon or 1pm, and maintained that the nation should make use of the natural sunlight and maximise its use in homes as well. Moreover, the government is to make the use of conical geysers mandatory within a year as they use less gas than traditional geysers and could help save Rs92 billion. Furthermore, he said that the government would be introducing electric motorcycles this year. He added that the federal cabinet has directed the formation of a committee to look into the work-from-home policy and the process will be completed within eight to 10 days. The minister said that the government has discussed the conservation plan with traders from across the country and a consensus has been reached. Awareness campaigns related to energy saving will also be conducted through print, electronic and social media as well as on private TV channels and radio channels through PEMRA. “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,” KhawajaAsif 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.” 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. Media reports quoting the Power Division have said that the circular debt which stood at Rs2.253 trillion by end of September last year had now reached Rs2.437 trillion, showing an increase of Rs185 billion.

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