Pakistan’s population is more than 120 million and It’s growing. An abundance of resources will be needed to feed such a huge population. Energy is a key to keep the engine of economy in motion. For the growing need of energy, Pakistan has to take emergency and long term measures, which are less expensive and environment deteriorating.
The administration of Prime Minister Imran Khan sees the alternative energy as a solution to the problem. Pakistan’s energy minister Omar Ayub has unveiled government’s plan to raise alternative energy share to 20% in next 6 years and 30% by 2030 in the country’s total power generation.
It’s plausible because alternative energy won’t only cut burden on Pakistan’s finances but also carbon emission by expensive gas and oil based power plants.
Of total 32263 megawatt in 2018, two third of power was produced through expensive sources, according to government estimates. Furnas oil based plants produced 7635 megawatts, gas based 6569 megawatts, RLNG based 3651 megawatts and nuclear plants 1345 megawatts.
The share of alternative energy remained just slightly above 2000 megawatts including 400 megawatts of solar, 985 megawatts of wind and 306 megawatts of bagasse. Hydel and coal based plants’ generation stood 8683 megawatts and 50 megawatts respectively.
Official documents show a growth of 2652 megawatts by June 2019 in the system. No increase was seen in the generation from furnas oil, gas, RLNG, solar and nuclear plants. Whereas alternation energy sources – wind and bagasse – added additional units in the system. Wind plants output increased by 384 megawatts to 1333 megawatts and bagasse by 193 megawatts to 500 megawatts. Similarly, Hyde and coal power plants contributed additional 790 megawatts and 660 megawatts respectively.
Alternative energy’s share in the nation’s energy mix is just 5%. However, the National Electric Power Regulation Authority or NEPRA has already issued tariff and generation licenses for 22 alternative energy projects of 1199 MW. Five wind projects of 298MW have been completed under CPEC.
Pakistan has an abundance resources of alternative energy including coastal wind, shining sun and water. There are also opportunities to utilize bagasse and geothermal resources to generate less-expensive electricity. Given the current situation the government can count on solar and wind projects. Pakistan’s souther Sindh and southwestern Balochistan provinces are suitable locations for setting up wind plants whereas many ares are for solar projects.
All this required a long term planning and must be given preference over power plants being run on imported fuel. 30% and 20% of total power production can be attained from solar and wind plants.
Setting up such projects demands a huge investment though their running cost is lower than oil, gas or nuclear based plants.
Imports of equipment including turbines, solar panels and inventors needs foreign exchange. So given the current situation of economy where current account and fiscal deficits and dwindling foreign exchange reserves have restricted the government’s choices of spending, a mechanism has to be made to maintain a balanced exchange rate.
A bid to boost alternative energy production, the government of former premier Nawaz Sharif introduced net-metering project under which consumers could shift additional electricity to the system for some earning. This will save around $1.5 billion in term of investment the government is supposed to make for one gigawatt of power. But lack of public awareness about the net-metering and its benefit by power distribution companies can have bearing on its gains and production be limited to less than 50 MW. So the government has to conduct a comprehensive study to find reasons of public resistance to adopt the program. Neither has Pakistan’s experience of major hydro-power projects been very good nor has raising funding for mega wind projects been easy.
New and effective strategies should be designed to cater the energy demands of the next decade. The renewable sources of energy seem a viable, cost-effective and pollution-friendly solution at the point of time and international financial institutions including the World Bank’s IFC are keen to promote power generation through the renewable resources and on forefront to invest in these projects.