June 11 - 17, 20

Pakistan can easily go ahead as a leader in renewable energy due to its geostrategic position and the abundance of natural resources it possesses.

The renewable energy sources could be used for power generation to reduce dependence on the imported fossil fuels, which put great burden on country's foreign exchange resources.

The total potential of renewable energy resources in the country have not been evaluated as yet. Keeping in view the availability of renewable energy resources, the present estimates are highly underestimated.

Pakistan is fortunate to be blessed with renewable energy resources such as wind and solar energy. However, resource constraints, unavailability of raw materials and lacking investment for tapping potential in this sector are considered major obstacles.

The wind speed is sufficient in Islamabad, Sindh, and Balochistan to generate electricity. Pakistan has a long coastal area in Sindh and Balochistan with a big potential for wind power. Gharo, Mirpur Sakro, and Talhar in Sindh have been identified as wind corridors.

Luckily, the largest wind turbine manufacturer company Suzlon is in India. There is a host of areas, where the two countries can cooperate and the energy sector is one area where bilateral cooperation is possible. It would be easy for Pakistan to import wind turbines from India and it would go a long way in helping to resolve the country's energy crisis.

Pakistan can generate over 350,000 MW of electricity through only wind against the country's total demand of about 21,000 MW during peak summer, necessitating solid steps to explore the wind energy potential.

Sources in alternative energy development board (AEDB) told Page that the country's has numerous resources to get energy and over 50,000 MW energy could be generated only in Gharo-Keti Bandar corridor where average wind speed is more than seven meters per second.

According to them, the corridor has potential twice of India and other sites in Balochistan, Punjab, and northern area, which are identified for power generation. By switching to alternative energy means, Pakistan can reduce dependence on imported oil, running into billions of dollars and undermining economic development.

In recent years, the government has completed several projects to demonstrate that wind energy is viable in the country. In Mirpur Sakro, 85 micro turbines have been installed to power 356 homes. In Kund Malir, 40 turbines have been installed, which power 111 homes. Thus, wind energy can be utilised perfectly in our region.

Coal gasification also offers one of the most versatile and clean ways to convert coal into electricity, hydrogen and other valuable energy products.

Experts told this scribe coal gasification is the future, therefore, Pakistani research institutes should focus on giving awareness to Pakistani entrepreneurs about this technology in vogue in the developed world.

The LCCI Senior Vice-President Kashif Younis Meher said that there is no second opinion about it that the coal technology is the key to success and only those countries would be able to make their presence felt at international level that would adopt modern energy technologies.

According to him, Pakistan is currently experiencing its worst ever energy crisis. The impact of these crises is getting so critical that our industry is nearing at the verge of complete closure. The irony of the fact is that three decades ago, electricity was generated from hydel and nonhydel resources with a proportion of 70:30. Now the situation has totally reversed. It means that the country is relying too much on gas, oil and other sources to generate electricity. It has resulted in costlier electricity, which has wiped out competitive edge in international market and also pushed us to that stage where our future has become skeptical.

Luckily, having abundant reserves of coal, which will not cost us dearly, we can utilize it for energy production.

According to the reports, 80,000 megawatts of electricity is being produced through underground coal gasification in different countries of the world including South Africa, Australia, China, Russia, Poland, Czech, and Uzbekistan. But sadly, the government did not allocate funds in the federal budget 2012-13 for this project.

Experts said coal gasification provides significant economic and environmental benefits. Rather than burning coal directly, gasification breaks down coal into its basic chemical constituents using high temperature and pressure. Because of this, carbon dioxide can be captured from a gas steam far more easily than from the smokestacks of a conventional coal plant. Coal gasification can not be only used for power generation but also it can become source of synthetic oil, coal chemicals, natural gas substitution. They predicted that coal gasification would be at the heart of clean coal technology and can pave the way for coal for future generations.

Similarly, Pakistan has plenty of sunshine. The central and southern parts of the country provide excellent locations for utilization of solar energy. Solar energy is available at a rate of 1000 watts per square meter in Pakistan. This can be converted to DC electricity with the help of solar photovoltaic cells, which may be used to pump water, operate fans, TV, and telecommunications directly during daytime. The other plentiful energy resource we have is sunlight. Anyone who suffers from load shedding knows the heat of the harsh sun. If 0.25 per cent of Balochistan was covered with solar panels with an efficiency of 20 per cent, enough electricity would be generated to meet energy demand of whole country. Solar energy is also used for cooking. In our rural areas, wood is used for burning, which is causing deforestation. Solar cookers can be used for cooking purposes.

The electrical energy generated during the daytime (5-8 hours of sunshine), can also be stored in deep cycle lead acid batteries which can be used at night to provide power for lighting, radio, Television and fans. The system will be user-friendly and designed as a stand-alone system for each household.

The user will only be required to switch on/off the system, as is done in normal home lighting systems. In addition, solar photovoltaic panels can generate enough electricity to pump water from depth of 350 ft, 700 ft and up to 1000 ft.

Solar energy is a potentially available renewable energy source in this region. This source can be utilized as an excellent alternative to fossil fuels for these areas.

Solar energy resource is planned to successfully utilize for household applications and electrification of remotest villages of these areas. The outcomes of this program are social uplift, betterment, and provision of basic amenities of life.

The government needs to pay attention to those who are ready to invest in renewable energy and give major financial incentives to them as well. AEDB has been set up by the government to facilitate development of alternate and renewable energy resources. The board is working on the installation of three wind power projects of 50 MW each in Sindh province. The board is also sponsoring studies for waste to energy projects in different parts of Pakistan. Isolated solar power plants and solar heaters are being promoted in the country.

Micro hydro power plants are also being installed in mountainous areas for small communities. The board is also promoting biodiesel in Pakistan. However, in a country like Pakistan, which spends billion of dollars every year on import of food items like edible oil, sugar, wheat, vegetables and pulses, the use of biodiesel is not economically and strategically feasible.

Instead of finding alternative resources of generating energy, the government had, in collaboration with industrialists, opted for rental power plants, resulting in a severe energy crisis. Energy crisis could be overcome by exploring alternative energy sources like bagasse form sugarcane and the vast coal reserves in Sindh, Punjab, and Balochistan.

Pakistan could avail German expertise for installation of renewable energy projects to overcome acute energy shortages. The need of the hour is to adopt energy efficiency solutions and energy conservation measures to save energy and reduce energy consumption bills. Solar energy projects are the need of time, which can augur well for the ailing economy.