Sardar Awais Ahmed Khan Leghari, the Federal Minister for Power Division, has put forward a bid to establish a renewable energy institute in the country with the assistance of World Bank and its International Finance Corporation wing.
While the institute’s primary aim would be to carry out research and extricate potential for renewable, it would also focus on policy measures for the government’s consideration with sight on competitive bids henceforth.
Considering the renewable potential in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, Pakistan can – on paper – revamp its energy policy and the national electricity plan. However, this paper isn’t a page where the various provincial governments look like converging.
Pakistan’s Vision 2025 vows integration of renewable mix. And apart from an array of reasons, the one most pivotal is the volume of logic it makes.
For starters, it addresses the climate change challenges and would positively impact lives in terms of health, security, productivity and also employment opportunities. It also makes sense economically, considering the cost that climate change hazards mount for energy generation.
Energy economics demands phasing out of the hazardous sources – like coal – and influx of renewable, nuclear and hydro. Furthermore, clean energy now costs significantly less, at a much higher efficiency.
Pakistan’s current energy mix has 64% thermal, 30% hydel, 3% nuclear, with wind, coal and solar being negligible. This has particularly aggravated the massive import bill and exacerbated the electricity cost for the average consumer. Renewable addresses both.
Augmenting the renewable share in power projects, would also address the gaping disparity between Pakistan and global leaders in the realm. Germany has 27% renewable share, and is targeting 80% by 2050 – 42% of this from wind. Meanwhile, Denmark’s reliance on wind is 14% of the electricity production, with US’ share being 6%.
The region is also making strides in renewable. Around a quarter (24%) of China’s electricity production is based on wind, hydel and solar power. India, doing one over whom is in the Pakistani ethos, is targeting 150,000 megawatts of clean energy by 2022, with the investment already having begun.
Pakistan’s current renewable share is a mammoth 1%. This compared to a global average of 15-20%.
Those living in Punjab would’ve experienced back to back (to back) years of smog, which is sandwiched between autumn and winter every year. You would also have noticed that the density of smog is getting worse every year.
Since Islamabad is vying to follow Beijing’s lead on so many fronts, they would be well advised to do the same here as well. For the smog phenomenon, originating in greenhouse gases such as pollution from thermal plants, was faced by China as well, which – surprise surprise – didn’t blame it on a contaminated neighbourhood or the corollary of Diwali celebrations.
China is shunning coal fired power plants and is replacing it with renewable to curb smog, among other benefits. Pakistan should look to follow suit.
Even so, the announcement of the renewable energy institute in Pakistan suggests that the government’s procrastination appears to be behind them. Also, investments in the likes of Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in Punjab and wind mills in Sindh give further cause for optimism. Needless to say any help from the World Bank and IFB would be much appreciated.
Furthermore, when the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is regularly touted as a lifeline, a significant chunk of this billing goes to Sino-Pak collaborations in the energy sector. The long term CPEC plan explicitly underscores an increased focus and investment on renewable.
With Pakistan getting multipronged international support is vowing to up the ante on research and development for renewable, there could be a tangible change in the country’s energy mix in the near future.
Even so, how visionary, or otherwise, the Vision 2025, turns out be hinges on all the mandatory disclaimers and an if that is the size of Pakistan’s energy disparity.