TAPPING INTO THE GOLDMINE
Dec 12 - 18, 2011
Pakistan is marred by an energy crisis that has no precedence in its 64-year history. Although, blessed by natural resources, the country has failed to utilise its reserves for the enhancement of its industry and economy.
Since the past three years, due to improper planning, lack of long-term strategies, and an increasing circular debt, our energy generation capacity has decreased to dangerously low levels, while the demand is only increasing.
On the other hand, alternative energy development board (AEDB) started work in 2003 to promote and produce green energy in Pakistan, however, has achieved nothing to feel proud of, the government on its behalf keeps signing agreements, memorandum of understanding, accepting assistance or launching projects which soon become dormant.
Still, according to PEPCO, the current installed capacity for electricity is over 17,000 MW while electricity generation hovers at around 12,000 MW only and almost 60 million people in Pakistan are living without electricity.
Due to the power failure, Pakistan is losing over a billion dollars each year. Power-outages have crippled the economy and the everyday life of urban residents and even more so of the rural areas of Pakistan, where electricity provision has been as low as four hours per day.
According to Pepco, the projected demand in the next 20 years would increase tenfold, at 113,695 MW; the supply and demand gap will increase drastically if proper measures are not taken in time. Government is spending almost 20 per cent of its foreign exchange on fossil fuels imports. Annually $7 billion is being eaten away in import of conventional energy resources that is equivalent to 40 per cent of total imports by the country, but the country still lacks far behind in tapping the vast potential of alternative energy resources.
Pakistan meets its energy requirement around 41 per cent by indigenous gas, 19 per cent by oil, and 37 per cent by hydro electricity. Coal and nuclear contribution to energy supply is limited to 0.16 per cent and 2.84 per cent respectively with a vast potential for growth. A good start in the quest for not only finding alternative resources of energy but also increase the production level of existing resources which were efficient as well as would help reduce dependence on traditional modes of electricity generation and at the same time expand the power supply capacity to remote locations where grid expansion was not practical is required.
The hydropower potential in Pakistan is over 100,000 MW with identified sites of 55000 MW. Despite having the world's best water resources, the production of hydropower has been sidelined by the pervious governments. Even the storage capacity is only 13 per cent of the annual flow of its rivers. The storage is fast depleting due to sedimentation. In contrast US have developed 497 per cent storage capacity of annual flow of River Colorado; Egypt possesses 281 per cent of River Nile and India 35 per cent on Sutlej-Bias Basin. About 75 per cent of the total electricity consumed in South America is derived from hydropower. Japan, US, Russia and Turkey are the leading countries in the production and consumption of hydroelectric power. Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Switzerland and many other European countries have trapped most of their water sources and harnessed energy to generate electricity.
All these statistics warrant government to start construction of number of reservoirs to enhance availability of water which stands at 1070 cubic meter per capita.
Dozens of potential small hydropower plants can be set up in Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, with a production capacity of 2,000 MW. Northern areas possessing about 60,000MW of cheaper hydro resources, including over 25,000MW of simple run-of-the river, stand to gain from the ownership of this huge potential, if translated into reality.
Coal is the main source for producing cheaper electricity. China is the leading producer of coal, and US is the second largest producer of coal. Pakistan with 185 billion tons of coal reserves, the fourth largest in the world, is still under utilizing this resource, despite knowing the severe energy crisis. The Coal reserves as reported on June 30, 2008 were equivalent to 83,262 MTOE and sufficient to sustain alone whole energy supplies for next 1324 years at present rate of consumption. The 99 per cent of these coal reserves are in Sindh province mostly with ASTM classification of sub-bituminous A/C and Lignite A/B Coal. However, in the overall energy mix, the share of Coal power is only seven per cent as compared to world average of 40 per cent.
Among renewable energy resources, the easily accessible and most important is the solar energy. The Sun generates an enormous amount of energy, about 1500 quadrillion kilowatt-hours per year. Because of reflection, scattering and absorption by gases in the atmosphere, however, only 47 per cent of this, or approximately 700 quadrillion kilowatt-hours reaches the surface of the earth. The amounts of solar energy arriving at the earth's surface (also called solar insolation) vary over the year; however, for Pakistan is 6kWh/m2/day. The South Western province of Baluchistan and North Eastern part of Sindh offer excellent conditions for harnessing solar energy where sun shines between 7 and 8 hours daily or approximately more than 2300-2700 hours per annum.
This naturally gifted sunshine with available insulation density is sufficient to produce 60 MTOE of energy just with a cover of 25km x 25km area of land with 10 per cent efficient solar energy converters. Even if solar energy panels were installed on 0.25 per cent area of Baluchistan, the country's need could be met easily. The only need is to develop a massive scale back-up system to store and generate electricity when solar power is not operative at night or during the cloudy days.
Wind power has been use since Chinese and Persian Civilization. India occupies the fifth position, after Germany, USA, Denmark and Spain, in Wind power generation. In Pakistan, Wind speed 5-7 m/s persist in coastal regions of Sindh and Baluchistan provinces and in a number of Khyber Pakhtunkhaw valleys.
According to a survey, Pakistan possesses more than 20,000MW of economically viable Wind power potential. More than 1000 km long coastline in South and some places in Northern mountainous areas provide an excellent resource of wind energy. According to Pakistan Meteorological Department's detailed wind power potential survey of coastal areas shows that Sindh coastal areas has greater wind power potential.
Potential areas cover 9700 sq.km in Sindh. The gross Wind power potential of this area is 50,000 MW and keeping in view the area utilisation constrains etc., the exploitable potential of this area is estimated to be about 11,000MW. The Wind speed in the Gharo, Bandar and Jhimpir corridors was over seven metres per second at 60 metres height. If only 1,600 windmills are installed in just three district of Sindh, they could produce 44,000 mega watts of electricity which was 100 per cent more than the present demand of the country. According to government, Pakistan should be able to produce 500MW of wind power by the end of 2012.
Biogas has been used as an energy source for thousands of years by the humankind. Traditional fuels like firewood, dung and crop residues currently contribute a major share in meeting the everyday energy requirements of rural and low-income urban households in Pakistan. An average biogas using household consumes 2325 kg of firewood or 1480 kg of dung or 1160 kg of crop residues per annum. Total biogas generation potential of, 14.25 million m3/day is available in the country.
It is estimated that Pakistan has almost 159 million animals that can produce almost 652 million kilogram of manure daily from cattle and buffalo only, which can be used to generate 16.3 million-cubic - meters biogas per day and 21 million tonnes of bio fertiliser per year. It can easily compensate around 20 per cent of nitrogen and 66 per cent of phosphorus requirement in the crop fields. Various research indicates that livestock sector in the country is growing at the rate of four per cent per annum. Energy production by using animal dung is highly sustainable, economically viable and socially acceptable, besides being environment friendly. Nearly 70 per cent of the country's rural population can easily benefit from biogas energy as these plants are low cost and can be run with a small budget.
In another research conducted by University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, it is estimated that Pakistan has almost 3,000 MW power generation potential in sugar industry through biogas, but it is hardly producing some 700MW. Attention is now being given to the use of citrus pulp, paper industry, municipal and industrial waste for power generation. It indicated that poultry waste is also ideal substrate to produce biogas. Rice straw, when used for biogas production in comparison with other resources like cotton gin, etc., was found best for methane production but when cotton gin mixed with livestock dung was fermented; it produces more gas in lesser time.
Pakistan is striving for import of power from Central Asian Republics like Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and gas from Turkmenistan, Iran and Qatar. No doubt priority should be given to such projects but exploitation of the domestic resources base is also very essential to build self reliance and save foreign exchange for economic growth. Being enriched of nature gifted renewable energy resources; Pakistan must generate 25 per cent of its energy demand through solar, wind and biogas alternative energy technologies at least by 2015.
Due to lack of precise promotion instruments for renewable energy technologies, the output of all solar and wind energy systems plus mini/micro hydropower plants together amounted very minimum. So the future of all alternate energy resources is bright when we adopt all valid technologies. The biggest hurdles remained lack of technological resources, incentives and support problems very similar to many developing countries.
Honesty and dedication to national interests is being superseded by personal benefits of the responsible authorities which must be countered through effective control and monitoring measures at government level. This is one of the main hurdles for dissemination of technology in the country.
Government policies need to be more focused, and energies channelled in the right direction, rather in politicising every aspect of developmental projects. Here attention and investment required by private sector also, because there is no doubt that Government cannot reach out to 48,000 villages for electrification even during next 20 years. Despite knowing the fact, that every village has vast potential for alternate energy generation. Although to achieve such objectives, Government of Pakistan must have to formulate such laws and policies which encourage also private investors (local and foreign) to invest for the establishment of power/energy generating units. Tax rebate and financial leasing through banks or institutions must have to be opted as part of national renewable energy policies.
Human resource development (HRD) in the field of renewable energy technologies (RET) must be emphasized. Such objectives can be achieved through introduction of RET courses at university level for graduation/post graduation purposes and also provision of attractive salary package to RET scientists and engineers. So far such incentives have not been taken at government level in spite of the fact that its importance was realized two/three decades before.