Pakistan’s nationwide power cuts highlight escalating economic crisis

By Pamela Constable and Shaiq Hussain January 24, 2023 at 4:39 a.m. EST

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Three weeks ago, Pakistani authorities ordered all markets, restaurants and shopping malls to close early, part of an emergency plan to conserve energy as the country of 220 million struggled to make overdue payments on energy imports and stave off a full-fledged economic collapse.

But the measures were too little, too late. On Monday morning, the country’s overburdened electrical system collapsed in a rolling wave of blackouts that began in the desert provinces of Baluchistan and Sindh but quickly spread to nearly the entire country, including the densely crowded cities of Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi.

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The Global Energy Crisis 2021-2023 and Political Upheaval: Could It Get Worse?

What started as a sharp post-pandemic rise in energy prices in mid-2020 has turned into a full-blown global energy crisis. How is this affecting the political stability of countries?

17 January 2023 – by Heba Hashem

Last updated on 24 January 2023

The world is going through a global energy crisis. Fuel costs affect many parts of daily life, including energy for heating and lighting, individual travel and commodities transportation.

The world is now facing a cost-of-living catastrophe. Millions of households are struggling to cover basic needs after energy prices spiked to levels not seen in decades.

Is There a Global Energy Crisis Today in 2023?

Actually, there is a global energy crisis. From Indonesia to the UK and Peru, people across the globe have taken their anger to the streets. As many as 92 countries witnessed protests against high fuel prices between January and September 2022. These include developed European countries like France, Spain and the UK.

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Earthquakes Triggered by Dams

Exposing the Hidden Dangers of Dam-Induced Earthquakes

Earthquakes can be induced by dams. Globally, there are over 100 identified cases of earthquakes that scientists believe were triggered by reservoirs (see Gupta 2002). The most serious case may be the 7.9-magnitude Sichuan earthquake in May 2008, which killed an estimated 80,000 people and has been linked to the construction of the Zipingpu Dam.

How Do Dams Trigger Earthquakes?

In a paper prepared for the World Commission on Dams, Dr. V. P Jauhari wrote the following about this phenomenon, known as Reservoir-Induced Seismicity (RIS): “The most widely accepted explanation of how dams cause earthquakes is related to the extra water pressure created in the micro-cracks and fissures in the ground under and near a reservoir. When the pressure of the water in the rocks increases, it acts to lubricate faults which are already under tectonic strain, but are prevented from slipping by the friction of the rock surfaces.”

Given that every dam site has unique geological characteristics, it is not possible to accurately predict when and where earthquakes will occur. However, the International Commission on Large Dams recommends that RIS should be considered for reservoirs deeper than 100 meters.

What Are Some Characteristics of RIS?

A leading scholar on this topic, Harsh K. Gupta, summarized his findings on RIS worldwide in 2002:

  • Depth of the reservoir is the most important factor, but the volume of water also plays a significant role in triggering earthquakes.
  • RIS can be immediately noticed during filling periods of reservoirs.
  • RIS can happen immediately after the filling of a reservoir or after a certain time lag.

Many dams are being built in seismically active regions, including the Himalayas, Southwest China, Iran, Turkey, and Chile (see map). International Rivers calls for a moratorium on the construction of high dams in earthquake-prone areas.

Click here for the factsheet on RIS worldwide.

Problems With Big Dams

By 2015, the dam industry had choked more than half of the Earth’s major rivers with some 57,000 large dams. The consequences of this massive engineering program have been devastating. The world’s large dams have wiped out species; flooded huge areas of wetlands, forests and farmlands; and displaced tens of millions of people.

Courtesy of James Syvitski at Colorado University, who produced the video with Bob Stallard of the USGS and Albert Kettner at CSDMS. Data from Alex de Sherbinin (CIESIN, University of Colorado), and Bernhard Lehner (Department of Geography, McGill University).

The “one-size-fits-all” approach to meeting the world’s water and energy needs is also outdated: better solutions exist. While not every dam causes huge problems, cumulatively the world’s large dams have replumbed rivers in a massive experiment that has left the planet’s freshwaters in far worse shape than any other major ecosystem type, including tropical rainforests. In response, dam-affected communities in many parts of the world are working to resolve the legacies of poorly planned dams. Elsewhere (and especially in North America), communities are starting to take down dams that have outlived their usefulness, as part of a broader river restoration movement.

Impacts of Dams

Dam Basics

Fact sheets:

Political declaration on establishing the Just Energy Transition Partnership with Viet Nam


Published 14 December 2022

  1. The Governments of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, together with the International Partners Group, consisting of the European Union, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America, Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of France, the Italian Republic, Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark and the Kingdom of Norway;
  2. Recognising the need to accelerate action towards the objectives and long-term goals of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement, including through the implementation of the Glasgow Climate Pact, to minimise the worst adverse impacts of climate change for countries, people and the environment;
  3. Noting that limiting global warming to 1.5°C to mitigate the worst adverse impacts of climate change requires rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 relative to the 2010 level and to net zero around mid-century as well as deep reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions, emphasising climate change adaptation and achieving net zero emissions as an opportunity for sustainable development;
  4. Recognising that for Viet Nam, as an independent, sovereign and fast developing lower middle income country heavily affected by the impacts of climate change, it will be key to embrace the opportunities brought about by the fast decreasing cost of renewable energies as an opportunity for sustainable development and to tackle related challenges such as poverty, inequality and unemployment, which are exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, and that vulnerable groups and some important economic sectors may be impacted by the energy transition, including thermal electricity generation, coal mining, heavy industry and transport;
  5. Recognising the need for new, predictable, long-term and sustainable support from partner countries, multilateral organisations and investors in finance, technology and capacity building for Viet Nam to exploit fully the opportunities of the transition in accordance with the national framework of public debt and external debt management to contribute significantly to the implementation of the NDC of Viet Nam, its commitment to reach to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and its development orientation to become a high-income developed country by 2045;
  6. Tiếp tục đọc “Political declaration on establishing the Just Energy Transition Partnership with Viet Nam”

The Reality of Vietnam’s Energy Transition

The country has emerged as a regional leader in renewables, but some thorny challenges lie ahead.

By Kathryn Neville November 25, 2022

The Reality of Vietnam’s Energy Transition
The Vinh Tan thermal power plant in Binh Thuan province, Vietnam.Credit: Depositphotos


Earlier this fall, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry shone a spotlight on Vietnam, urging the Southeast Asian nation to “do what is sensible” and refocus its energy sector by investing in renewables and retiring fossil fuels. His remarks coincided with a deal between the European Union and the United Kingdom that made headway last week, which will see the two powers invest at least $11 billion in Vietnam’s green transition. The Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) seeks to cancel projects for new coal plants and build out 60GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030. Expected to be finalized at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting next month, the ambitious package will include public and private financing, technology transfers, and technical assistance.

JETP is not the first deal of its kind. The last decade has seen investors show a growing interest in expanding renewable technology in Southeast Asia. But for Vietnam’s government, the green energy transition is less about a passion for saving the planet and more about driving economic growth by any means possible. Vietnam cares about decarbonization – and renewables do have the potential to become the lowest-cost available energy option. But many political, regulatory, and financing challenges still stand in the way of this goal. Vietnam will ultimately act in its own best interest when deciding its energy future, but it must be wary of not getting overly ambitious with its commitments to the green transition by taking on debt and accepting capital for projects that are premature, imprudent, or ill-advised. An “energy transition” can be dangerous to any developing country that does not have the same risk tolerance as wealthier nations, and Vietnam is susceptible to falling into this trap.

The Emperor is Wearing No Clothes: Beyond Hydrocarbons in the South China Sea

Published:October 3, 2022 – Author: Tabitha Grace Mallory

Feature Map: Biodiversity in the South China Sea

Read the full report

We need only call to mind the first half of 2022 for an array of the extreme, energy-related global challenges we all face. Around the world, local versions of climate change effects—the temperatures, wildfires, droughts, storms, flooding—underscore how important it is for us to transition away from our overdependence on fossil fuels. And our energy sources don’t just have environmental implications but security ones as well. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is the latest rendition of the resource curse. At the heart of it all, fossil fuels are what enabled and amplified the murderous narcissism we see in Vladimir Putin and created a country with an unbalanced and unhealthy domestic economy able to profoundly destabilize energy flows and prices around the world.

The South China Sea (SCS) brings together its own assortment of these complex challenges and factors. Competing security concerns, resource needs, and nationalisms shape the motivations of the claimants. Much of the attention and conflict has centred on the oil and gas in the seabed. Estimates of SCS hydrocarbon volumes vary; only some of these resources are proven reserves that have been confirmed and measured, and are actually recoverable. But even in more generous assessments, the SCS only provides us with a small percentage of the global total of oil and gas reserves, and even less of the overall energy mix if we include non-fossil-fuel energy sources.

Beyond hydrocarbons, in a two-way tie with the adjacent Coral Triangle, the SCS has the highest level of marine biodiversity in the world. SCS fisheries feed and employ millions of people in the region. It’s true that conflict over these living marine resources also drives the territorial disputes in the region, and a wide variety of human activity degrades the SCS ecosystem. Yet drilling for hydrocarbons in the SCS threatens this vulnerable marine habitat even more, while also clearly contributing to geopolitical and security tensions in the region—and to climate change.

Given how destabilizing oil and gas pursuits have been for the SCS since the 1970s, we might ask ourselves whether we want to keep drilling for fossil fuels there. Do the costs and risks outweigh the benefits?

Download this 21-page report (button above) from Dr. Tabitha Grace Mallory, an inaugural John H. McArthur Research Fellow, an initiative of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, and the Founder of China Ocean Institute and Affiliate Professor, Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington.

Below, explore the rich marine biodiversity of the South China Sea, one of the most hotly-contested maritime jurisdictions on the planet, in this original map created by the author and APF Canada graphic designer Chloe Fenemore, based on historical and contemporary maps cited in the full report.

Feature Map: Biodiversity in the South China Sea

Tabitha Grace Mallory

Tabitha Grace Mallory is the Founder of China Ocean Institute and Affiliate Professor, Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington. Dr. Mallory specializes in Chinese foreign and environmental policy. She conducts research on China and global ocean governance and has published work on China’s fisheries and oceans policy.

Dr. Mallory is an inaugural John H. McArthur Research Fellow, an initiative of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada launched in 2021 to provide research opportunities for exceptional, mid-career scholars who are working on programs and research areas with direct relevance to Canada and Canada’s interests in Asia.

Three myths about the global energy crisis

Russia is not winning the battle for supplies nor disrupting efforts on climate change and clean power FATIH BIROL\

The writer is executive director of International Energy Agency

As the global energy crisis continues to hurt households, businesses and entire economies worldwide, it’s important to separate fact from fiction. There are three narratives in particular that I hear about the current situation that I think are wrong — in some cases dangerously so.

The first is that Moscow is winning the energy battle. Russia is undoubtedly a huge energy supplier and the increases in oil and gas prices triggered by its invasion of Ukraine have resulted in an uptick in its energy income for now. But its short-term revenue gain is more than offset by the loss of both trust and markets that it faces for many years to come. Moscow is doing itself long-term harm by alienating the EU, its biggest customer by far and a strategic partner. Russia’s place in the international energy system is changing fundamentally, and not to its advantage.

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Country Climate and Development Report for Vietnam

Vietnam CCDR Report

Vietnam is increasingly seeing its development affected by climate change and now faces critical questions about how to respond. The Vietnam Country Climate and Development Report proposes that Vietnam shift its development paradigm by incorporating two critical pathways – resilient pathway and decarbonizing pathway – that will help the country balance its development goals with increasing climate risks.

After more than two decades of steady growth, Vietnam has set an ambitious goal of reaching high-income status by 2045. It has been recognized in the 2021-2030 Socioeconomic Development Strategy that the country’s economic transformation will greatly depend on better management of natural capital – the extensive stocks of agricultural, forest, and mineral resources that have helped drive development.

Yet Vietnam, with over 3,200 km of coastline and many low-lying cities and river delta regions, is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. Climate change impacts  – mainly higher and more variable temperatures and sea level rise  – are already disrupting economic activity and undermining growth. Initial calculations suggest that Vietnam lost $10 billion in 2020, or 3.2 percent of GDP, to climate change impacts.

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As biomass burning surges in Japan and South Korea, where will Asia get its wood?

by Annelise Giseburt on 19 May 2022

  • In 2021, Japan and South Korea imported a combined 6 million metric tons of wood pellets for what proponents claim is carbon-neutral energy.
  • Large subsidies for biomass have led Japan to import massive amounts of wood pellets from Vietnam and Canada; two pellet giants, Drax and Enviva, are now eyeing Japan for growth, even as the country may be cooling to the industry.
  • South Korea imports most of its pellets from Vietnamese acacia plantations, which environmentalists fear may eventually pressure natural forests; South Korea wants to grow its native production tenfold, including logging areas with high conservation value.
  • Vietnam may soon follow Japan and South Korea’s path as it phases out coal, and experts fear all this could add massive pressure on Southeast Asian forests, which are already among the most endangered in the world.

This is part two of a two part series on the Asian biomass expansion. Part one can be found here.

Under the guise of “carbon neutral” energy, Japan and South Korea’s appetite for woody biomass for electricity generation has increased exponentially over the past decade and continues to grow. The two nations’ biomass subsidies are spurring an increase in the production of wood for burning in Southeast Asia and North America, putting pressure on forests in those regions.

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Công bố Báo cáo triển vọng năng lượng Việt Nam 2021 – Đan Mạch khuyến nghị

15:09 | 02/06/2022

 – Ngày 2/6/2022, tại Hà Nội, Bộ Công Thương phối hợp với Đại sứ quán Đan Mạch tổ chức Lễ ra mắt Báo cáo triển vọng năng lượng Việt Nam 2021. Thứ trưởng Bộ Công Thương ông Đặng Hoàng An và Đại sứ Đan Mạch tại Việt Nam ông Kim Højlund Christensen đồng chủ trì sự kiện.

8 phát hiện và khuyến nghị chính của Báo cáo Triển vọng năng lượng Việt Nam 2021:

1. Hoàn toàn khả thi để phát triển một hệ thống năng lượng có mức phát thải ròng bằng không với chi phí tăng thêm chỉ 10% so với kịch bản cơ sở nếu thực hiện đúng cách.

2. Để đạt được mức phát thải ròng bằng không vào năm 2050 với chi phí thấp nhất, các nguồn năng lượng tái tạo cần là nguồn thay thế chính cho nhiên liệu hoá thạch. Hệ thống điện cần đáp ứng 70% nhu cầu năng lượng vào năm 2050. Các nguồn năng lượng tái tạo chính là điện mặt trời (75%) và điện gió (21%).

3. Quá trình chuyển đổi xanh của hệ thống điện cần nhiều vốn, tương đương mức đầu tư 167 tỷ USD/năm vào năm 2050 với kịch bản net-zero, tức là khoảng 11% GDP dự kiến năm 2050. Do đó việc tiếp cận các giải pháp tài chính chi phí thấp là tối cần thiết.

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The Impacts of US Wholesale Electricity Market Rules and Policies on Clean Energy Goals: A Primer for Local Governments

This paper discusses the evolving rules and policies of wholesale markets that can create barriers to local governments’ achievement of an effective and rapid clean energy transition. The report reviews the current barriers associated with transmission, market rules, and stakeholder processes across these markets while considering how these barriers affect local government clean energy and decarbonization goals, and the role of effective engagement in addressing these barriers.


Cover image



RegionNorth AmericaMarch 30, 2022

This Working Paper is part of Electricity Market Design within our Energy Program. Reach out to Zach Greene for more information.


Elise Caplan, Zach GreeneJoseph WombleKatrina McLaughlin and Lori Bird

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From Russia, with trepidation: will China sign a new gas deal to feed its energy needs?

  • The Ukraine war is complicating the calculus of China’s energy security and the prospect of a new energy deal with Russia
  • Can Beijing afford to be close to a Moscow that is increasingly politically and economically isolated?
Snow covers sections of connected pipework at the Gazprom PJSC Atamanskaya compressor station, part of the Power Of Siberia gas pipeline extending to China, near Svobodny, in the Amur region, Russia, in 2019. Photo: Bloomberg

Snow covers sections of connected pipework at the Gazprom PJSC Atamanskaya compressor station, part of the Power Of Siberia gas pipeline extending to China, near Svobodny, in the Amur region, Russia, in 2019. Photo: Bloomberg

Two recent developments reveal the possibility of a new energy agreement between China and Russia. First, Russian gas giant Gazprom PJSC announced a contract to design the Soyuz Vostok pipeline across Mongolia towards China. Second, Beijing is reported to be discussing with its state-owned companies opportunities to buy stakes in Russian energy companies, and is also looking at a Power of Siberia 2 pipeline to China.

With the exit of international energy companies from Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, Germany’s decision to halt the certification process of the Kremlin-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and rounds of sanctions on Russia, there are certainly new opportunities for the Chinese government and companies to strengthen their position in the Russian market.

However, even as domestic, regional and global factors may push China towards a new energy deal with Russia, Beijing could also face a range of challenges.

Firstly, Beijing’s ambition to be carbon-neutral by 2060 and replace much coal with gas is one of the most important domestic factors prompting China to further improve its relations with Russia.

Russian gas exports – whether liquefied natural gas or pipeline gas delivered through the original Power of Siberia, for example – would help China reduce greenhouse gas emissions as the country makes a green transition.

Secondly, the withdrawal of Western energy companies such as BP and Shell from Russia due to the Ukraine war creates opportunities for Chinese energy companies, especially state-owned ones, to invest in Russia and diversify their portfolio.

Thirdly, while China also imports gas from Turkmenistan, Russian gas is one of the cheapest options for Chinese consumers, making a new energy deal with Russia that much more attractive.

However, there could also be obstacles to such a deal. One problem could be the political and economic uncertainties now looming over Russia; the deterioration of the Russian business environment under current sanctions might discourage Chinese companies from investing in Russia.

Particularly, sanctions led by Washington seem to inspire caution in Beijing and Chinese companies. For example, the state-run Sinopec Group recently suspended talks about a major petrochemical investment and a gas marketing venture in Russia, apparently heeding a government call to tread carefully with Russian assets.

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EU leaders seek escape route from Russian fossil fuels, weigh energy investment plan with Reuters

 10 Mar 2022

Europe’s energy independence from Russia, including in its financial aspects, will be a key topic of discussion at a two-day summit in Versailles hosted by the French EU presidency. [France Diplomatie – MEAE]

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European Union leaders will tackle ways to wean themselves off Russian fossil fuels on Thursday (10 March) and debate how quickly to ditch their key supplier, with countries split over whether to sanction oil and gas imports as Moscow wages war in Ukraine.

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Key Themes for the Global Energy Economy in 2022

We start with a review of short-term issues in the oil, gas and electricity markets. Bassam Fattouh and
Andreas Economou consider the outlook for oil demand over the next 12 months and discuss the ability
of OPEC+ producers to manage a gradual increase in production to balance the market, even as
demand growth is expected to soften. Their conclusion is that the oil price will remain within a $70-90
per barrel range, while refilling depleted storage will be a key issue. Price volatility, in light of
considerable uncertainty about both supply and demand, as well as political responses to high prices
will remain dominant issues in 2022. Anupama Sen, David Robinson and Rahmat Poudineh then
discuss government responses to current electricity price volatility, using the UK and Spain as examples
of different responses to providing protection for low-income consumers. They see the issue becoming
increasingly relevant as the energy transition progresses and suggest that government intervention
could become less and less effective unless energy policy is well designed.
In a somewhat similar vein, Mike Fulwood and Jack Sharples consider the outlook for gas prices and
supply to Europe and the implications for the global LNG market. Replenishing European storage will
be a critical issue in 2022, with LNG supply, Asian demand and pipeline exports from Russia being key
drivers to watch.

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