Dr Tauseef Aized With the invention of automobiles and airplanes and the growing use of electricity, oil became an indispensable fuel during the twentieth century and currently supplies more than eighty per cent of world energy needs. Fossil fuels are, however, non-renewable energy resources and are depleting at a rapid rate. Energy experts and policy makers have genuine and intense concerns about the availability of oil resources in the future. According to estimates, oil will run out in nearly 50 years, and coal in 150 years. Hence, the world is in dire need to develop alternative energy sources on an urgent basis and solar energy is emerging as a strong candidate for future energy needs. The available world solar energy resources are 3.8 yotta joule, YJ (1 YJ=1024 J) per year and less than merely one percent of this energy is sufficient to replace entirely fossil fuel and nuclear power as energy resources. The amount of solar energy is so huge that in one year it is about twice as much as will ever be obtained from all of the earth's non-renewable resources of coal, oil and natural gas. Pakistan lies in an area of the highest solar insolation in the world. The mean global irradiation falling on a horizontal surface in Pakistan is about 200-250 watts per square meter of area in a day with almost all parts of the country having more than 300 sunshine days in a year. The vast potential can be exploited to produce electricity which can be provided to off-grid communities in the northern hilly areas and the southern and western deserts. The provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan and the Thar desert are especially suited for the utilization of solar energy. Baluchistan, the largest province of the country, has a population density of less than 25 persons per square kilometre and 77 % of its population lives in rural areas. Almost 90 % of its villages are yet to be electrified and these villages are separated by large distances with typically no approach roads. The electrical energy requirements of most of the houses in these remotely located villages are generally very low and transmission lines are very expensive to build in these areas. The only possible provision for these remotely located areas is local power generation through solar energy. In addition to that, Pakistan is bound to spend more than one third of its foreign reserves for oil imports which could be decreased by increasing solar energy use. Other advantages which solar energy offers include a clean environment, energy independence and new employment opportunities. A World Bank study has revealed that a house with kerosene as the lighting source results in indoor pollution equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for exposed occupants. Solar energy can be utilized in different ways. The best way is through photovoltaic technology which converts the sun energy directly into electricity but there are a large number of applications in which solar energy can be utilized by exploiting its heat characteristics. These applications include cooking, heating and cooling of buildings, generation of high temperature steam, heating water for domestic and industrial applications and drying agricultural products under controlled temperatures. All these technologies are comparatively simple and relatively low cost. Although there exists a reasonable infrastructure of organizations aimed at research, development and implementation of solar technology in Pakistan, the number of practical applications and projects is dismally very low. It is generally considered that the main reason of lower solar energy use is high initial cost of solar projects. This may be a valid reason for electrical energy generation photovoltaic projects due to a lower efficiency of solar cells but other applications of solar energy which have already been mentioned are low cost and easy to adopt. The main reason for low exploitation of solar energy potential in Pakistan is inadequate demonstration of effective use of this technology. In view of long-term benefits of solar energy projects, the organizations responsible for solar energy development and implementation must educate decision-making circles and masses for increased adoption of this technology. The government should motivate people through media, exhibitions and field demonstrations and encourage installation of solar lights and other appliances on public buildings, parks and streets which would help to overcome the ongoing electrical energy crisis in Pakistan. The writer is Professor of UET Lahore E-mail: tauseef_aized@yahoo.com