Being a third-world country with a budding population, urbanization and consumer market, Pakistan is looking to utilize the cheapest energy resources available, particularly for energy generation. For Pakistan, clean, renewable energy is the answer to two looming challenges, first is the rising threat of climate change and consequent environmental disasters, while secondly, the expensive electricity generated by imported oil and coal power plants financed by Chinese loans could be phased out. Only six percent of Pakistan’s energy requirements are sate using wind, solar and biogas sources, while twenty-four percent are met using hydropower.
Fossil fuels power a staggering sixty-six percent of the country’s energy requirements with an ever-increasing reliance on coal power plants. For a country like Pakistan, included among the most vulnerable to climate change, investments into non-renewable energy resources spell disastrous consequences in the long run. Moreover, besides the threats posed by climate change, Pakistan’s renewable energy source could be the panacea to an ever-looming boom and bust energy generation crisis.
Read more: Pakistan’s abysmal performance on renewable energy production
Renewable energy sources are the answer to Pakistan’s energy crises
Pakistan’s ample renewable energy sources include wind, solar, hydro and biomass. In Pakistan, Solar Photovoltaic (PV)Power Plants, if installed on an area of 100km2, could generate power equivalent to thirty million tons of oil (MTOE). Some small programs powering households and public buildings through PV Plants have been implemented by the government through the extent remains insignificant in comparison to fossil fuel energy resources. In terms of Wind energy sources, Pakistan’s Alternative Energy Development Board has identified the Gharo Corridor, a high wind speed area covering 9750km2 from across forty-six locations from Sindh and Balochistan province, with an energy generation potential of fifty thousand megawatts of electricity.
Despite being abundant in renewable energy sources, only fifteen hundred megawatts of electricity is generated for the national grid from solar and wind energy. The government’s Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy 2019 sets a target of thirty percent renewable energy generation into the national grid by 2030. Though a commendable policy, to achieve this feat, the government would need to immediately set up wind and solar power plants across the country via competitive and robust bidding to reduce prices. According to a report by International Renewable Energy Agency, in 2020, the cost of renewable energy generation fell even in comparison to the lowest cost of coal-generated energy.
Important points from the report
This report opens up opportunities for fossil fuel-reliant countries to gradually phase out the use of non-renewables in favor of renewable energy sources. Hence renewable energy owing to the development of the latest technology and lower prices has become the “new coal energy”. The case in Pakistan, however, is discouraging, to say the least. Work on Chinese-financed coal power plants is undergoing. Coal energy is estimated to contribute approximately seven thousand megawatts of electricity to the national grid. Several reasons hinder Pakistan’s transition to solar energy, including procedural delays, powerful lobbies favoring fossil fuel energy sources and unfavorable tariffs for private firms.
Initial investments into non-renewable energy sources have high costs, particularly solar energy; this prevents the governments from taking bold policy decisions even though after the initial costs, renewable energy becomes cheaper and sustainable. The quest for cheaper energy compelled Pakistan to allow Chinese investments in its coal sector. Pakistan’s reliance on fossil fuels is exacerbating the environmental challenges already facing the country. The shift to renewable energy would lower the country’s carbon footprint, slowing down the rate of glaciers melting and disrupting the frequent heatwaves, erratic monsoon, urban flooding and droughts in the country.
Read more: Renewable energy: JS bank partners with Hadron Solar
This, combined with the sustainability of renewable energy, would not only fulfill Pakistan’s energy demands also create livelihood opportunities for locals and retain the flow of the country’s capital for the generation of thermal energy. Pakistani policymakers must view renewable energy sources through the lens of climate change and environmental protection. Renewable energy generation must be adopted as an emergency response to the country’s growing environmental foes. Planting a billion trees will have zero benefits if carbon emissions are not controlled and minimized. Renewable energy is the only venue to achieve this feat.
The writer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Space’s editorial policy