Widespread electricity shortage has been a major challenge for Pakistan; at its peak, this amounted to over a 7 GW supply-demand gap and caused the electricity grid to be offline for vast swathes of the population for many hours daily. Millions of households have countered this by investing in self-generation and battery storage technologies. This paper, by Hussain Kazmi, Fahad Mehmood, Zhenmin Tao, Zainab Riaz, and Johan Driesen assesses the impact of these technologies on the broader energy system in terms of efficiency losses for households, and contribution to low-voltage grid congestion. It highlights the unintended consequences arising from wide-spread and unregulated adoption of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems to mitigate electricity outages. Practical insights on how the detrimental effects of residential batteries can be reduced are also presented, and possible policy choices to provide the roadmap for a future electricity grid are discussed.
The case of Pakistan is unique in the sense that a majority of its population, without access to electricity, is above the poverty line. In general, supply has lagged behind demand and two significant factors leading to persistent shortage are the increasing electrification rates and rising electricity demand in grid connected users caused by population and economic growth. Widespread electricity load shedding has led to mass adoption of backup systems or UPS which usually employ lead acid batteries. UPS systems have become pervasive because of their perceived low cost, and seamless and noiseless operation.
This research is based on a survey of 200 respondents conducted at LUMS. In order to validate the research findings and investigate the efficiency of commonly installed backup systems, two test batteries were installed in households. The research findings suggest that the low efficiency of these backup systems (usually around 50% or less) has caused annual losses of around 3–4 TWh for the electric grid in Pakistan as well as overloading of transformers and frequent supply-demand imbalances. It has also led to an additional burden on households because of the installation and operational costs of such backup systems.
On the other hand, the mass adoption of these backup systems has also created an entire ecosystem which can enable massive demand side management (DSM) and provide the framework for a future smart grid in Pakistan. Foremost amongst these opportunities is the potential to use smart controllers to improve energy efficiency and offer ancillary services to the electric grid. It is important to note here that the capacity of installed batteries in households already outstrips the primary reserve in most developing and developed countries. The study also recommends mandating energy efficiency labels for UPS systems to inform users not just about the upfront costs of such systems, but also their true operational costs. Furthermore, proper dimensioning guidelines must be made available to households to ensure minimum wastage, both in terms of investment and operational costs as most households currently over-dimension their backup systems above what is ideally needed.
Finally, this study emphasises the need to update the legal framework surrounding interactions with the electric grid to enable demand side management at a large scale. It also recommends a broader systems view by relevant stakeholders in the government and industry, updated building and grid codes, price-based incentives and minimum legal requirements to help the widespread adoption of such measures.
Kazmi, H., Mehmood, F., Tao, Z., Riaz, Z., & Driesen, J. (2019). Electricity Load-Shedding in Pakistan: Unintended Consequences, Opportunities and Policy Recommendations. Energy policy, 128, 411-417.
About the Authors
Fahad Mehmood is Assistant Professor at the SDSB, LUMS. He teaches courses in production and operations management. He is the Co-Programme Director for the executive programme on Roadmap to Manufacturing Excellence at the Rausing Executive Development Centre (REDC), LUMS. His research interests include logistics, supply chain, energy management, and operations research. His work has been published in Energy Policy.
Zainab Riaz is Assistant Professor at the SDSB, LUMS. She teaches business analytics, introduction to information technology, and operations. Her research interests include construction IT, open data for urban planning, and management information systems. Her research has been featured in Energy Policy, Journal of Management in Engineering; Engineering Construction, and Architectural Management; and Automation in Construction.