Balochistan is rich in renewable energy (RE) resources, which must be exploited for sustainable development of the province. The government should make efforts to exploit huge volume of renewable energy sources of the province through renewable energy technologies like wind power turbines, biogas plants, microhydel power plants, solar thermal devices and tidal energy. Tidal power has not yet been operational in Pakistan compared to other renewable energy technologies. Tidal power plants in coastal creeks of the country, however, could play a role in overcoming the chronic energy shortage. In 1988, the National Institute of Oceonography (NIO) had conducted a study that showed that the 17 creeks on the coastal belt of Pakistan could generate tidal energy sufficient to meet the requirements of coastal areas at very cheap rates. Unfortunately, the study was shelved by the powerful bureaucracy for unknown reasons.
The tidal energy is a form of hydropower that converts the energy obtained from tides into electricity. Although not yet widely used, tidal energy has potential for future electricity generation. Tidal energy is an environment-friendly and more predictable resource, as compared to wind energy. The cost for establishing a wave energy infrastructure is approximately equal to a wind-based power plant.
Tidal energy is produced through the use of tidal energy generators. These large underwater turbines are placed in areas with high tidal movements, and are designed to capture the kinetic motion of the ebbing and surging of ocean tides in order to produce electricity.
There are very few commercial-sized tidal power plants operating in the world. The first was located in La Rance, France.
The largest facility is the Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station in South Korea. America’s first tidal project became operational in December 2006, when two underwater turbines were installed in New York’s East River.
Good prospects for Pakistan economy
Balochistan has 770-KM long coastal belt along the Arabian Sea, which links Lasbela and Gwadar districts. The coastline is 70 percent of the country’s total coastline of about 1,045km. It has huge potential for development of fisheries, tourism and seaports and renewable energy projects. The coastline of the province is the best resource for exploiting the tidal energy. Grid-based or off-grid tidal power stations could be constructed, depending on site conditions. The off-grid power stations would be more advantageous for meeting rural needs of electricity. Sonmiani Beach and Kalamat are good prospects of tidal energy in Balochistan. In 2013, a license was issued to private companies for building tidal power stations and initially a 10MW plant was proposed at Sonmiani Bay.
Under the government of former president Pervez Musharraf in 2007, the United States had shown a keen interest in exploiting tidal energy from the creeks in the coastal belt of Pakistan. An American investor had submitted a letter of intent to harness tidal energy to the tune of 50-300MW from Wadi Khuddi and Paitani Creeks in Thatta district in Sindh and Dhad Creek near Sonmiani in Balochistan. Dhad Creek in Balochistan has the capacity to produce up to 800MW energy theoretically but in practical terms 22 per cent of its potential could be exploited.
In 2012, The Tide Tec, a Norwegian company, offered to introduce ocean wave-based electricity production technology in Pakistan. The company was willing to explore the potential of electricity production from energy harnessed from the tides and waves of Pakistan’s oceans. Tide Tec specialises in developing technology for energy producing bridges that harness the potential of tidal and wave energy. Unfortunately, the company would have to pass through a rigorous process before it could start its operation in the country. It had to convince policymakers to get approvals; and seek various sorts of no-objection certificates from almost two dozen government departments.
The coastal areas of Balochistan like Gwadar and Pasni in Makran district provide good conditions and climate for installation and working of the tidal energy generators. These projects will control the power shortage problem in the province. With the development of Gwadar into a hub port of the region on the pattern of Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore, the power demand of the port city will increase multiple times. Exploitation of tidal energy potential is the good option to meet the future power needs of Gwadar port city.
Balochistan is blessed with high rate of wind velocities and long sunshine hours. The available wind speed data collected from the meteorological directorate suggest that coastal area of Balochistan has enough wind speed to help generate electricity or to directly operate prime movers for water pumping systems largely suitable for small power requirements and remote area applications. The technical violability depends on the availability of mean wind speed, which must be at least equal to 3 meter per second for its minimum utility. Most of the wind resources are located either along the sea coast lines or on the mountains.
Alternative energy development board (AEDB) is carrying out many RE projects in remote areas of the province for the past many years. The AEDB’s village electrification program through solar energy could not fully be implemented in the province due to the financial constraint. Established as an autonomous body in 2003, AEDB is working development of RE technologies. It has been mandated to ensure five percent of total national power generation capacity to be generated through energy technologies by the year 2030. Electricity generation through RE plants is considered by most as an economical and cost-effective energy source, since there is no fuel cost. AEDB has already completed topographic survey of target villages in southern, central and northern Balochistan, yet it has been a cash-strapped and hence could not undertake more projects in the remote area of the province.
The AEDB’s must be given by the government a task with sufficient funding for carrying out a detailed survey to identify the sites for setting up tidal energy projects in the coastal districts of Balochistan. The NIO’s study would be beneficial in this regard and the services of NIO’s experts may be sought for exploiting the tidal energy potential of the province. Moreover the foreign investors should be facilitated for making investments and using their technologies and expertise in ocean wave-based electricity production technology and construction of tidal power plants in coastal Balochistan.