SOLAR ENERGY: A SOLUTION TO POWER CRISIS

FAIZA HAI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

June 4 - 10, 20
12

Like the other epic problems of the country, supply of electricity is also the major one; long load shedding is affecting the whole country. The power crisis is getting worse and various short-term solutions being offered are not the answer. Wapda's chairman's assessment that the power shortage will last until 2018 is optimistic when the increase in demand over the next seven years is factored in. According to the Prime Minister, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, it is difficult to overcome country's energy crisis in immediate terms but still there is a hope. Instead of spending billions on energy sector, Pakistan needs to make clear and transparent policies on renewable so that public and private sector can make necessary investments.

The power shortage is harmful to the country's economy and it is pulling down GDP growth. The funds spent on import of power generators and their fuel is an enormous drain on the economy. Larger industries can afford power generators, but small/medium enterprise, which is any nation's primary growth engine, cannot. We need a solution to take care of the country's power requirements for the next 20 years.

Expensive import-based, oil-run power generation is not the answer. These have already increased fuel import bill. Gas based projects are also not the answer as the country's gas supply is limited.

A possible home-grown energy solution, based on wind and solar energy, can be used. Many countries in the world have implemented alternative energy programs. Spain is already producing 73 per cent of its power from wind and solar energy. Though technology is still evolving for solar energy, a more immediate solution is wind energy.

The Karachi to Gwadar coastline has enormous potential for generating wind energy. Wind towers can generate between 7,000 to 10,000 MW of electricity. There will be certain challenges to accomplish this, but all the solutions are within Pakistan's grasp and we need not depend on foreign assistance.

Solar sector is the fastest growing clean energy industry in the world. Prices of solar panels have declined by more than 60 per cent in the last 30 months. Solar modules are expected to cost half as much as they did four years ago.

Pakistan can have wind energy on lines of China to generate 20,000 MW. China has planned to generate or 30GW with wind energy by year 2020. Gansu province alone is going to add 7GW to its existing 10GW installed capacity by 2015. Wind energy project costs have dropped to below $625 a kilowatt, making wind power generation a profitable business in Gansu. China is going to harness 750GW of offshore wind energy. In G-20 countries, 48 per cent investment in clean energy has gone in wind energy and it has added 40GW of generating capacity, which is enough to power 30 million homes.

Pakistan can use its costal lines and farmlands to harness wind to power its agro-sector, industry, cities including Karachi and Gwadar. The solar feed-in tariff, the price of solar-generated electricity, could drop below 12.5 cents for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) by 2015, equal to conventional coal-fired electricity by that time. Technology including dual meter is being adopted in Europe and US that allow individual homes to send surplus energy generated from renewable energy to main grid online and are paid for it.

Pakistan can cut the cost of solar panels by using silicon in local deserts. The advancement in solar technology in form of tiny glitter sized photovoltaic and transparent, spray-on and thin film solar panels turning windows, cars and most surfaces into solar energy producers offer limited future use of solar energy. India is encouraging individuals to develop 12-acre solar farms to sell energy to state. Almost entire textile sector of India has shifted to renewable energy. Pakistan needs to legislate to shift industry to renewable energy to free gas, end energy theft, and meet international emission standards and competitiveness.

Pakistan, tracking the UK, Germany, Bangladesh can encourage banking sector to finance individual homes to shift to renewable. It will save trillions being lost to corruption, line loses, administrative cost and maintenance.

Specially, Punjab government needs to spearhead the drive to adopt renewable energy to overcome its debilitating power crisis. Renewable energy can be used to reduce Pakistan's ever increasing $10bn annual fuel imports. By adopting mass transport, Pakistan can cut diesel fuel imports, which reportedly constitutes 80 per cent of total national fuel import. Following the China and UK, Pakistan must return to railway to cut diesel imports by 80 per cent, freight and travelling charges by six times and save trillions being spent on road infrastructures especially mega cities.

China has installed 460 solar powered charging stations for EVs (cars, motorcycles, and bicycles). Philippine has introduced 20,000 electric rickshaws. Renewable energy can help Pakistan fight poverty, generate millions of jobs, end privatization of national silver, and bring more than $100bn annually in foreign direct investment.

Renewable energy can give jobs to millions unemployed skilled workers of Pakistan. It can save our future generations from being unemployed. Our leaders need to use renewable energy to educate and employ youth, attract billions of dollars in FDI, and revive and sustain economy.

Nations are using renewable energy, transport policies, and eco-cities to overcome poverty, create millions of jobs, expand industries, attract foreign investment and strengthen economies. In conclusion, Pakistan can solve its energy crisis and join modern world provided our leaders are willing to adopt effective laws, transparent policies, get rid of corrupt practices, and promote renewable energy.