ALTERNATIVE ENERGY RESOURCES
EXPANDING ITS ROLE IN GLOBAL ENERGY SUPPLY
FOZIA ISHAQUE (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jan 21 - 27, 2008
Renewable resources, once almost insignificant, are now gradually expanding their role in global energy supply. In 2004, renewable energy from all sources accounted for approximately 13% of global primary energy supply. The biggest contributors were large hydropower (approximately 2%) and biomass (a little more than 10%). Around 1% of global primary energy came from new renewable sources such as photovoltaic, solar thermal, wind power, small-scale hydropower, geothermal, biogas and new biomass. But while the two large contributors are increasing only slowly in absolute terms, or even staying constant, contributions from new renewable sources are expanding rapidly. The increase in cost of fossil fuel and the various environmental problems of large scale power generation have lead to increased appreciation of the potential of electricity generation from non-conventional sources. With the ever increasing growth in energy consumption and rapidly depleting fossil fuel reserves, it is feared the world will soon exhaust its fossil fuel reserves. There is rising need for alternate and renewable sources of energy world wide so as in Pakistan. Thus the need to develop alternate energy resources has become inevitable. The oldest and most widely used renewable energy resources are solar and wind, which have shown prospects and potential for efficient utilization.
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT BOARD (AEDB)
The Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) was established on April 20, 2005 as an autonomous body for the purpose of implementation of various policies, programs and projects in the field of Alternative or Renewable Energy Technologies while supplying wind, solar and mini/small hydropower generated electricity in remote regions of Pakistan. AEDB is also responsible for developing the country's medium- and long-term promotion policy for renewable energy sources.
Thermal power plants in Pakistan are operated by furnace oil and natural gas. Sixty eight percent of the total power generation in Pakistan is oil based, making electricity too costly to have taken its toll on the meager resources of the country. Extensive dependence on oil is the primary cause of soaring import bill touching the threshold of $ 12 billion in the forthcoming future.
Natural gas has been a cheaper source of power production previously but it is blood curdling to mention that the gas reserves are also on fast diminution hampering any more power plants to be allowed on this mode. There have been concrete efforts to import natural gas from Iran to meet the domestic requirements. However the plan is not accomplished as yet owing to incessant instability and chaos in the region.
Geological Survey of Pakistan discovered coal mines in Thar District Sindh in 1992. These 850 m tons of coal deposits are one of the largest coalfields in the world. Since this discovery the emergence of a power plant based on coal is a matter of national significance. Thar coal deposits are sufficient to meet fuel requirements of the country for centuries and could generate about 100,000 MW of electricity. Only 200 million tones Thar coal (lignite) can produce 1000 MW electricity power up to 40 years in the country.
To develop these coal reserves the foreign investors interested in undertaking coal power projects have been conducting due diligence exercises but all their efforts went in vain on technical grounds. Inappropriate tariff has also been mentioned as one of the motive behind reluctance of investor. To achieve the objective of development of indigenous resources the government should determine upfront tariff for coal based power projects to be based on previous studies conducted by international organizations.
Hydel energy is the cheapest source of electricity generation amongst all other sources. Currently, hydel electricity accounts for 33.3% of total electricity produced in Pakistan. Combined installed capacity of hydel energy is about 6,460 MW. Pakistan has total hydel power generation potential of about 46,000 MW. However, power generation capacity of hydel projects is seasonal and is highly dependent upon availability of sufficient water in the reservoirs, resulting in fall of electricity generation during the times when there are fewer rains in the country or fall in the level of water in associated rivers. This has caused regular load shedding on a nation wide basis and loss of industrial production. Transmission costs of hydel electricity is much higher as network of transmission lines is required to be laid down for delivering electricity produced to areas which require it. Secondly, hydel projects typically have long gestational periods, as compared to the other available options.
Despite all these issues it is pertinent to relate that tremendous potential of run-of-river projects can't be negated and ought to be harnessed immediately. Construction of small dams of from 50MW to 5 MW is in long run national interest. These types of projects involve minimum capital cost and less operating cost.
Two nuclear power plants produce electricity in Pakistan ñ Kanupp is running for the last 32 years and Chasnupp, the second one, began to operate in 2000. Today nuclear energy represents only 0.9% of the electricity produced in Pakistan, which is far below other countries like China. The energy supply per capita is very low compared to the world average, thus the demand of electricity is expected to increase widely.
Development of nuclear plants is part of the government plans; the construction of Chasma II is under consideration, as six nuclear power plants projects are envisaged. Nuclear energy has environmental advantages compared to conventional thermal power plant because of the absence of toxic emissions of carbon dioxide and sulfur oxides. But, the investment cost is very high and the construction time extensively long.
Nuclear energy could not meet needs in the short run, as it is still in its infancy in Pakistan. The two main reasons given to implement new nuclear power plants are the low cost of the electricity produced and the absence of harmful emissions compared to conventional energies. However, a research by SDPI, Pakistan, on Economics of nuclear energy in Pakistan showed that nuclear energy is more expensive than conventional thermal energy. The cost of nuclear energy is 20 cents per unit compared to 12 cents per unit for thermal energy. Nuclear energy is hence not an affordable response to energy deficit.
In late 70's Paksitan attempted to strike a deal for nuclear fusion reaction based power plant in association with France but the deal did not materialize due to mounting international pressure and fear of US sanctions on the economy.
As an economical source of renewable energy solar power can also be used to produce electricity. This power generation is mode is vastly suitable for rural areas of Pakistan as there is abundant solar radiation. As 70% of the population lives in rural areas and a large number of small villages are scattered around main grids. It is not cost effective to take transmission lines to all these small areas. For small households special devices can be produced for specialized purposes.
There are enough feasibility studies as to solar power generation option. But this project is facing the impediment of lack of funding as the initial capital outlay is around $ 2 billion. However this enormous untapped potential if harnessed properly can abridge the deep chasm between demand and supply curves of electricity requirements in Pakistan.
Wind energy can be used as a clean, plentiful, reasonable, infinite and environment friendly source of energy. This is getting worldwide attention with the development and availability of inexpensive technology that allow its easy conversion into useful energy.
Wind energy is the first of the "new renewable" technologies to have penetrated the energy markets in some parts of the developed world in a serious way with the right kind of policy support. The wind energy industry can lead the way for other renewable energy technologies as it matures and penetrates markets. Worldwide it drives costs down which will make this technology globally competitive including developing countries.
Wind and Solar energies are the possible clean and low cost renewable resources available in the country. The potential, for the use of alternative technologies, has never been fully explored in Pakistan. AEDB has been assigned by the Government of Pakistan with the target of producing 700 MW of Wind Power by the year 2010 and 9700 MW by the year 2030, through the private sector.
Wind power provides opportunity to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuel and at the same time expands the power supply capacity to remote locations where grid expansion is not practical. Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has conducted various surveys to assess the likelihood of success in wind base power plants. These studies are done along coastal areas of the country and indicate that a potential exists for harvesting wind energy using currently available technologies, especially along Sindh coast.
Currently, there are 84 IPPs in the country, who are planning to install 50 MW wind farm each, under the Policy for Development of Renewable Energy for Power Generation 2006 issued by the GOP. In addition, under the remote village electrification program, AEDB has been directed to electrify 7,874 remote villages in Sindh and Balochistan provinces through renewable energy technologies. Under the GOP guidelines, an Investor can only get Letter of Interest (LOI) for 50 MW Wind power plants.
225 wind water pumping systems have been installed in Balochistan. Over 140 micro wind turbines of 500 Watts each are operational in Sindh and Balochistan, providing electricity to 691 houses in eighteen (18) remote, off-grid villages.
Currently there is no Wind Atlas available for Pakistan. Pakistan Meteorological Department has conducted a detailed Wind Power Potential Survey of Coastal Areas of Pakistan. This study has enabled to identify the potential areas where economically feasible wind farms can be established. AEDB is in the process of getting this data validated by Rise National Laboratory of Denmark. Potential areas cover 9700 sq. km in Sindh, with suitable average annual wind speed of 7 m/s at 30 meters. The gross wind power potential of this area is 43000 MW and keeping in view the area utilization constrains etc. the exploitable electric power generation potential of this area is estimated to be about 11000 MW.
Keeping in view the underlying facts and forth coming dilemmas in the economic and social spheres of the country, it is apt to seek for best and the most suitable version of power generation and consumption. Wind and solar energy, owing to the demand pattern as well as inherent in expensiveness can be the fittest probable remedy to the quick resolution of the issue. Construction of small dams and phased development of coalfields can also be a phenomenal triumph for the nation in the long run. There are pros and cons to each option but it is authorities who are responsible to capitalize upon the opportunities and ensure undisrupted provision of this basic component to all consumers.