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Renewable sources of energy are key for current supply disruptions

The present energy supply situation necessitates immediate working on alternative/renewable energy sources. The following analysis of energy situation in Pakistan further accentuates the need for the same.

Some of the causes of power shortage are:

– Increase in circular debt because of failure to curb power theft
– Inability to recover billed amounts from consumers
– Decline in hydro power because of water shortage
– Decrepit secondary transmission lines

To begin with, government must reconsider its approach to energy policy. Currently, the policy places too much emphasis on generation and not enough thought on why there is shortage in the first place. In addition to generation capacity, power shortage exists for three reasons:

Unsustainable sector:

In its present structure, the sector is financially unsustainable. The system does not recover the cost for generation, transmission, and delivery of power.

Inefficient transmission and production of thermal power in the public sector:

A large part of the system is inefficient. O&M backlog and aging equipment in GENCOs means they produce electricity way below capacity. Transmission has always been under invested. Both suffer from policy issues of who should invest.

Wrong priorities:

Government has set wrong priorities. This is seen in high gas allocation to fertilizer at the expense of power, major public investment in roads and not enough in revamping decrepit generating plants or transmission lines.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Immediate action needs to be taken to improve billing and recoveries by DISCOs. Improved cash flows through the system will enhance power production and reduce shortage. It will make future investment feasible. This situation can be improved through administrative action, better management practices, and accountability of officials running DISCOs. This is entirely in the government’s domain. The combined loss from power theft and under recovery has a deleterious effect on the sector. It results in high tariff and an ever-increasing circular debt. This in turn leads to below capacity generation. Instead of improvements, performance of DISCOs has worsened in the last year as recovery of bills fell even in the well performing units.

2. Improving gas supply to power producers, prioritizing the more efficient IPPs.

3. Accelerated public investment to improve GENCOs efficiency and investment in power transmission even at the expense of road projects should be made while ensuring transparency and accountability in approving contracts.

In light of the above, the importance of tapping of renewable energy sources could not be emphasized more. While use of alternative/renewable energy has its pros and cons, when taken into consideration, it becomes more advantageous.

 

Following are some of its advantages and disadvantages:

ADVANTAGES OF RENEWABLE ENERGY

The major advantage with the use of renewable energy is that as it is renewable it is therefore sustainable and so will never run out. Renewable energy facilities generally require less maintenance than traditional generators. Their fuel being derived from natural and available resources reduces the costs of operations. Even more importantly, renewable energy produces little or no waste products such as carbon dioxide or other chemical pollutants, so has minimal impact on the environment. Renewable energy projects can also bring economic benefits to many regional areas, as most projects are located away from large urban centers and suburbs of the capital cities. These economic benefits may be from the increased use of local services as well as tourism.

DISADVANTAGES OF RENEWABLE ENERGY

One disadvantage with renewable energy is that it is difficult to generate the quantities of electricity that are as large as those produced by traditional fossil fuel generators. This may mean that we need to reduce the amount of energy we use or simply build more energy facilities. It also indicates that the best solution to our energy problems may be to have a balance of many different power sources.

Another disadvantage of renewable energy sources is the reliability of supply. Renewable energy often relies on the weather for its source of power. Hydro generators need rain to fill dams to supply flowing water. Wind turbines need wind to turn the blades, and solar collectors need clear skies and sunshine to collect heat and make electricity. When these resources are unavailable so is the capacity to make energy from them. This can be unpredictable and inconsistent. The current cost of renewable energy technology is also far in excess of traditional fossil fuel generation. This is because it is a new technology and as such has extremely large capital cost.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecasted that demand for primary energy will increase by 40 percent between now and 2030. The mounting energy demand in Pakistan is a huge challenge for development and stability. Alternative/renewable energy is the only panacea for all concerns of intensifying global energy demand, of vanishing fossil fuels and exhausted natural resources. Usage of renewable energy sources and other environmental-friendly technologies can only assist in sustainable socio-economic growth over the globe. To curtail the country’s energy issues Pakistan has to divert its policies and consequent actions for alternate/renewable energy.

The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan

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