A memorandum of understanding signed between the Punjab government and a five-country consortium shows the way out of the present power crisis: alternative energy. The MoU is primarily for the setting up of a plant assembling and making solar panels, solar cells and solar batteries in Faisalabad. It also provides for the consortium to consider the projects for setting up 400MW solar power projects each near four industrial zones, and for setting up a 150-MW power plant on the Motorway from Pindi Bhattian to Faisalabad, as well as the conversion of streetlights to solar power. It is good to see that Punjab is trying to meet the power crisis by adopting alternative energy.

Like the rest of Pakistan, Punjab has no shortage of the sunlight needed to generate electricity. However, the prospects of solar energy should not blind us to other sources of alternative energy, like wind power and hydro-electricity, Hydel potential in particular has not been properly tapped, with the politicization of the Kalabagh Dam project virtually a symbol of that. It is incomprehensible why this should happen when the project has been studied exhaustively, and the fears about it shown to be groundless, while the project is also a water storage and will act to control floods.

While insufficient attention is given to hydel, it seems that wind power is not being properly exploited. It has been estimated that Pakistan’s coastal areas have a wind potential capable of alone meeting the national shortfall several times over. There are other sources of alternative energy, which can be explored, but if we were to exploit properly the sources closest to commercial and technological fruition, the task of meeting the energy crisis would be that much easier. This means hydel and wind energy. They must not be neglected because of solar power.

It must be realised that Pakistan has vast potential, not just in alternative energy sources like the sun, wind and water, but also in traditional thermal generation through huge coal resources. The only reason why potential investors might be discouraged is because previous projects have not been properly followed though. The Punjab government has an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to ending the energy crisis by fulfilling its part in the MoU. It should remember that the exploitation of alternative resources depends on just such transfers of technology as the MoU represents.