Pakistan possesses immense alternate energy resources, including solar and wind, which when exploited would have many economic benefits.

Dec 04 - Dec 10, 2006

Some time ago, Chairman Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDP), Air Marshal (retd) Shahid Hamid, had said: "Our plan is to generate energy from the sun, wind and other sources equal to the total installed energy generation capacity of the country by 2015 as the current sources of energy including oil and gas are reportedly depleting". In this connection Chief Charles Okeno, USA, rightly remarks: "No doubt it is a worrying reality that one day the fossil fuel resources will run exhausted". Similarly, Perry Britz, London, U.K. expresses his concern on the subject in the words: "Concern about the possible fossil fuel drying up in the near future is a reality that calls for strategic planning by all nations".

Danial commented on recent Lebanon - Israel war in these words: "What is happening in Lebanon is all about oil, control of oil, the appointment of Israel marks proxy as the regional policeman, and advantaging of the large oil companies ......". From what Danial has pointed out, it is abundantly clear that America is aggressively endeavouring to capture oil and gas reserves in the world to cater to its energy requirements on one pretext or the other. Besides other strategic needs, its war in the Middle East, Gulf and Afghanistan is motivated for acquisition of these energy reserves.

Here I am repeating some contents of the statement of the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Richard Boucher, which substantiate our opinion in this context: "We want to give South Asia's access to the fast and rapidly growing energy resources in Central Asia, whether they are oil and gas in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, thermal power in Uzbekistan to hydro-power in Tajikistan and Kyrgystan". This shows how crazy America is in pursuit of energy resources and also as to what are its designs and as to how far this super power can go to quench its thirst for energy".

This is an alarming situation for the whole of the world. All these references must awaken us to activate our efforts and accelerate our speed in harnessing our indigenous resources to meet the country's energy requirements before it is too late for us to benefit from these resources

Pakistan has enormous potential of energy resources, however, it still remains energy deficient and has to rely heavily on imports of oil to satisfy its needs. Technologically renewable resources, which have prospects to be exploited commercially in Pakistan including mega micro-hydel, bio-energy, wind and solar energy resources as well as great thermal reserves of coal. Pakistan's energy consumption has nearly tripled in the last 20 years. Still Pakistan accounts for less than 0.5 per cent of total world's energy consumption. Pakistan's consumption of its natural gas accounts for 51 percent of the country's energy requirements, oil 29 percent, hydro-electricity contributes to 11 percent, coal 8 percent and nuclear energy's share is up to one percent. The share of energy consumption is 23 percent domestic, 34.1 percent industrial, 34.4 percent transport, 3.2 percent commercial, 2.6 percent agriculture and 2.7 percent others. Pakistan's commercial energy needs double every 10 years but only 18 percent of the population has access to natural gas.

Gas is the prime source of energy in Pakistan as it provides 51-52 percent of the national energy requirements. Gas reserves are adequate for only 24 years. Domestic consumers of gas are 3.8 million, commercial consumers are 65,000 and total number of vehicles being run on CNG is 7,00,000, thus making Pakistan the world's third and Asia's largest consumer of CNG in the transport sector. Gas discoveries and supply are not keeping pace with the ever increasing demand thereof and it would be unavoidable to import gas in case other indigenous resources of alternative energy are not exploited to relieve the burden on gas. According to the present position, despite all the publicity, propaganda and media coverage by the government, not a single megawatt has been added to the country's energy generation capacity during the present regime. Electricity breakdowns are very common. So much so that there was a complete shutdown of electric supply throughout the country recently. Karachi and other big cities are the worst affected.

Country's annual energy deficit is shooting up every year. It will be 1000 mw from 2007. Demand for electricity is increasing by 6-7 percent per annum because of rapid industrialization, urbanization and unrestricted migration of people from rural areas. To discuss the situation of electricity in Karachi warrants another article. God has blessed this country with innumerable resources to generate energy, much more than our national needs, provided we work with devotion, dedication and commitment, by using the modern technologies and expertise in this field. There is great need and scope to tap our vast hydro potentials, which remain un-utilized because of inter-provincial differences and misgivings of small provinces against Punjab and federal governments.

Mega projects like Kalabagh, Bhasha dams and other proposed big dams can make the country self-sufficient in irrigation water and, to a great extent, in power at a cheap and affordable rate. The need of the hour is to remove misunderstandings of the people of Sindh and of other small provinces to start construction of these water reservoirs as early as possible in the broader national interest, which is also in the interest of Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP.

The economic hydro-power in Pakistan is estimated at 20,000 mw. Seven hydel power projects are being offered by the government for private sector's participation, while the installed capacity is 19252 mw. Power is generated from three resources - hydel, thermal and nuclear. Water is the key resource for cheap and adequate energy generation. The country's present hydro-power generation capacity is 6491 mw and projects of 3500 mw are under development in the public and private sectors, which are expected to be completed and commissioned by 2007 - 2011. A US-based firm has expressed keen interest to invest $650 million to construct at least 20 small hydro-power generation projects. There are also good chances of producing cheap electricity from small dams, biogas and wind turbines, which would increase employment opportunities, reduce poverty and bring many economic benefits. Due to its ideal geographical location, Pakistan possesses immense potential of alternate energy resources including solar and wind, which when exploited, would have many economic benefits. There is a long stretch of coastal belt measuring 1048 kilometers, where the wind blows at the rate of 7 meters per second while the rate of wind blowing at 3.7 meters per second is sufficient to run the wind turbines. Commercially viable wind resources are in abundance in the southern part of Sindh and coastal lands of Balochistan, suitable areas in the interior of the country and mountainous regions. According to a survey, we have potential to generate electricity from 400 mw to 4500 mw at a cost of Re1 per unit from this source of energy.

The Alternate Energy Development Board in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Department has already made a survey of these areas. A satellite wind-map was expected to be prepared soon. Twenty-two investors from five countries, Malaysia, Canada, America, Germany and China are showing great interest in alternate energy resources development. Investors would be required to produce energy at least 50 mw each and transfer the technology to Pakistan. It is expected that from this source 700 mw electricity will be produced by 2010 and 9700 mw by the year 2030. The government is planning to install 100 wind power turbines in remote coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan. The already inaugurated Gharo wind project will have the capacity of 50 mw, which will be increased to 100 mw, then to 800 and onto 900 mw by 2010. On completion this power plant will meet more than 30 per cent of the energy requirements of Karachi. The cost of the project is $875 million approximately, most of which is being borne by the private sector while the government has provided land measuring 19,700 acres for this purpose.

With the assistance of UNDP, the Government of Pakistan has selected 43 ideal sites in the northern areas, which include natural springs and water-falls, from which thousands of mw electricity can be generated at a cheap rate. As regards solar energy potential, it is estimated that nearly 3,000 hours of sunshine go waste every year. Most of the regions of Pakistan receive abundant irradiation, hence Pakistan can produce substantial electricity from the sun and one kwt energy per meter can be obtained in this way. Solar energy can be used in two forms, one in the form of solar cells and secondly by thermal method in the far flung and distant places to provide electricity for domestic use, where there is no grid station. Pakistan has been able to develop its potential in photovoltaic (PV) technology, which is suitable for small power requirements. The added advantage of solar and wind energy is that it is much more cheap, pollution free and environment friendly.

Being an agricultural country, Pakistan can produce biogas and bio-diesel at large scale. With the dwindling of resources of traditional energy in the world, many countries have worked zealously to find alternative energy resources. Some of them have made wonderful achievements. The example of Brazil is before us, which is catering to its large-scale needs with ethanol being produced from sugarcane. Pakistan should find inspiration from such countries to be self sufficient in its own energy generation, for which it has great potential, not less than any other country of the world.

Now that the US has decided to help India to produce 40,000 mw of nuclear energy by 2040, Pakistan must not blindfold its eyes from harnessing nuclear energy resources in collaboration with China, if the US does not come forward to cooperate in this regard. China has already committed to provide two more nuclear plants of 325 mw each, a offer that should be availed as early as possible. Pakistan needs 8800 mw of electricity by 2030 for which it is pursuing a peaceful nuclear development programme. Pakistan, therefore, must use all the available options to meet its requirements, of which China is most dependable, trustworthy and tried and tested friend. China should, as far as possible, be given preference to others in executing further nuclear energy programmes to meet our energy needs.