Proper utilization of renewable energy – Sustainable way forward for Pakistan

Thing to remember: Pakistan is rich in terms of clean and sustainable energy sources.

Why nobody wants a long term solution – who is responsible? Is it necessary to deal everything in a worst way? Why leaders are not removing obstacles to the new visions? Don’t we have enough potential to make it feasible for betterment of mankind? – I always wonder.”

Although Pakistan’s energy infrastructure is making some progress yet most of the new capacity addition plans are not sustainable and beneficial for the environment. The whole world is moving towards alternative and sustainable solutions of energy. Pakistan should also diversify its energy mix by harnessing vast potential of natural resources such as hydropower, solar, biogas and wind available in the country. The renewable energy future prospects are encouraging in the country and it can be utilized to overcome the power shortage issue. The diversification of existing energy resources and exploration of new sources is an important aspect to be considered in order to have a sustainable power development and its implementation in the country.

“Does Installation of new coal-fired power plants make any sense when a solution to sustainable development is needed? When we burn coal for electricity, we place our health, our environment, our economy, and our planet at risk. Thoughts need to be changed for sustainable development. We can shift our nation away from dirty fossil fuels and toward cleaner, renewable sources of power to develop science-based solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.”

Pakistan is among top rated countries in term of sunshine hours and daily solar radiations falling on the surface. This available potential of solar energy could be utilized to electrify off-grid areas. Individual units can be installed to fulfill the energy requirements of each house. Facilities and training should be provided to individuals so that they can install solar operated power system to fulfill their own needs. This will not only eliminate the power shortfall issues but also create new job opportunities. About 8.1 million jobs were generated though implementation and development of renewable technologies across the world in year 2015.

Figure 1: Renewable energy employment.
Source: IRENA

 

Different surveys show that if we continue with the same mindset future energy mix will mainly comprise of coal, oil, and natural gas operated power generation systems which is a major threat for environment. Just to give an overview, if we replace this use of coal (20%), fossil fuels (20%), and natural gas (20%), an estimated of 16 million tons of CO2 emissions can be avoided. This estimate assumes that fossil fuel generated share which is mentioned above, is replaced by renewable energy operated power plants. It can be observed how effective these technologies are for sustainable development, if implemented properly.

The investment costs of renewable energy technologies are often higher as compared to other fossil fuel operated technologies. But the financial comparisons often do not provide true picture of the future prospects of the technology as it ignores the long term benefits of these technologies. That is why life cycle assessment of any system should be carried out to check its feasibility. This accounts for all the costs associated with the system (initial investments, operating & management, and salvage value of equipment) and long-term environmental benefits of the power system. It is very important for sustainable development to overcome hazardous emissions because it’s a major issue at present and going to become more severe in future.  If these entire factors are considered, the renewable technologies will be much more beneficial.

The only need is the design thinking. We as a nation will not be able to progress until we change our design thinking and go for sustainable solutions. Nations are replacing fossil fuel operated power plants with renewable energy technologies and we are installing new ones. It’s not the right way to progress; we have to start from where the world is right now. Policies are often made but no implementation is made. It’s time to overcome our management irregularities and think of long term solutions. Now the time and situation have reached to such a critical stage that the government should set a renewable energy deployment target with a timeline and at the same time should provide a positive environment and easy to work policies to encourage the private sector to invest in renewable energy development.

Figure 2:The estimated potential of different renewable energy sources for electricity production in Pakistan, 2010–2050 (GW: Gigawatts).
Source: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2016.11.057

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