Pakistan contains vast renewable energy potential. As per last national plan, Pakistan can only have a 5 percent of total generation from renewable power (mainly wind, solar and bagasse only). It is being said that Pakistan should set the target of generating at least 30 percent of its electricity from renewable energy resources in the next five to ten years. The Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB), a one-stop window for wind, solar, and biogas power should work with all the stakeholders in making it possible. The last government made certain changes in the renewable energy strategy, which has stuck the renewable sector altogether. And it seems difficult that the current government can undo those changes in the strategy in near future. RE Policy 2006 has expired in early 2018 and it is expected that new renewable energy policy will be declared by the new government in early 2019. Over 10,000 MWs have been constructed in last five years and apparently, country has enough generating capacity for the next few years. CPPA, the sole off-taker for the IPPs, is refusing to sign additional power purchase agreements and is aggressively opposing renewable power projects currently under development. NTDC on the other hand, a sole transmission company, has certain reservations on taking power from renewable energy projects because of certain system constraints.
Pakistan has huge potential for wind power generation in Gharo-Jhimpir Wind Corridor, Sindh. In initial days, CPPA was assuming the wind risk and paying capacity payments at 31 percent capacity factor to wind power projects but since 2014, all the wind power producers are taking the wind risk whereas CPPA is signing Energy Purchase Agreements on take-and-pay basis, which means federal government will only pay to a wind power project when it will produce electricity and there would be no fixed monthly capacity payment. Similarly, all the solar power projects currently under development are on the take-and-pay basis and power producers are taking solar risks.
As we all know, renewable energy comes from a source that will not deplete. Two common examples of this type of energy are solar power and wind power. Hydropower and biomass are additional forms of renewable energy that produce power. The primary advantage of renewable energy is that fewer potentially harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere. Although coal, furnace oil, diesel, natural gas, and RLNG are mainly being used to generate electricity in Pakistan these days.
The disadvantage of renewable energy is that it can be costly. Although wind power and solar power have now become cost-competitive with imported coal-fired power and RLNG based power plants.
Here are few of the advantages of renewable energy to consider.
It is safe, abundant, and clean to use when compared to fossil fuels: Even clean-burning natural gas is at a disadvantage to what renewable energy sources can provide. Enough sunlight comes down on our soil every day that if we install solar panels, we could power everything for an entire year during daytime. In addition, Pakistan has enough wind resource which can be used during the night times.
Multiple forms of renewable energy exist: Diversification within the renewable energy sector is being exploded. From dams that provide hydropower to solar panels to wind turbines, Pakistan has numerous methods of creating power through the collection of renewable energy. There is greater diversity in this sector when compared to fossil fuel resources.
It provides the foundation for energy independence: Pakistan relies on imported oil, imported coal and imported RLNG to generate power: These fuels come from a handful of countries they then control the pricing and availability. By developing renewable energy resources, Pakistan can work toward energy independence with a diversified portfolio of energy to access. Now, it doesn’t even take longer time to construct a solar and wind power project (maxi 12 to 14 months) as compared to imported fuel based power plants.
Renewable energy is stable: It is a general presumption in Pakistan that renewable energy is not reliable or is a jerky power, which is contrary to the fact. When renewables are creating energy, the power produced is stable and usable, just like any other form of “traditional” power. It is a dependable resource when infrastructure is available to support it. NTDC is required to provide a reliable transmission and grid system. In addition, jobs are created within the sector as well, creating stability within local economic sectors at the same time. The power created can be distributed through existing grids or new grids can be constructed. The best use would be to supply power from wind and solar power project to the areas nearby instead of taking renewable power to the load centers. It is important to develop more cities rather than making all the investment and development in few big cities only. In addition, a large part of rural areas of Pakistan are still without electricity, therefore, it is better to install renewable mainly solar and wind power plants in those areas and provide this basic necessity of life to local residents at an affordable price.
It is a technology instead of a fuel: The pricing of renewable energy continues to go down as improvements in technology occur. Levelized tariff of wind and solar power has come down to 4 US cents per kWh in Pakistan from over 10-14 US cents per kWh a couple of years back.
It is true that not every form of renewable energy is commercially viable. Many forms of renewable energy must be collected at a specific location, which means electricity distribution networks must be setup to take advantage of generated power. The cost of set up of a grid station and transmission line can be very high. In this situation, the cost of electricity generated by a renewable energy project can be higher than a thermal power plant if the cost of transmission and grid station is also added in the cost of energy, which sometimes can even make a renewable power project financially unviable.
Many forms of renewable energy are location-specific. Even solar energy has limited potential in some locations. It is a general presumption in Pakistan that a solar power plant can be installed anywhere in the country, which is not the case. Utility solar power plant can only be installed after conducting a detailed solar assessment study whereas the capacity factor of a solar power plant can be different from another solar power plant. In Pakistan, south region (which is Sindh) has higher solar irradiation than the north region (which is Punjab) and if we go further in the north, the solar irradiation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province is even less than Punjab. Similarly, wind projects can only be installed in Balochistan and Sindh but taking power from Balochistan and Sindh to the load center in Punjab is too costly. However, off-grid solar panels, which are also called roof-top solar can be installed at any location depending on the need. A number of individuals have installed solar panels at their houses during the last few years when load shedding was at its peak. As the cost of self-power generation through roof-top solar is still less than the cost of electricity we are getting from the government, therefore, it is still not a bad idea to install solar panels at houses or warehouses, or on the rooftop of big buildings and factories.
Pakistan has a vast supply of renewable energy resources, and ideally, it should have one of the largest programs in the world for deploying renewable energy products and systems, which is not the case. As renewable energy is now the cheapest form of electricity generation in Pakistan, the government should reduce its reliance on the expensive imported fuel bases power plants in favor of cleaner, more accessible electricity for people and businesses.