NEED TO CAPITALISE ON RENEWABLE ENERGY
SAAD ANWAR HASHMI
June 11 - 17, 2012
Pakistan is facing a serious economic crisis, affected with high inflation driven by cost pressures. A direct impact of inflation hampering the purchasing power of everyone specially the poor is an incremental price impact driven through rise in price of fuel. The government has used the fuel prices as a medium to generate tax revenue. Prices are increased frequently based on international demand pressures and to support budget.
Pakistan has witnessed time and again public protest against power outage, which has affected people's ability to control monthly expenditures while industrial production is significantly suffered resulting in layoffs of workers.
The world economy particularly the western markets have invested and are actively seeking alternate energy resources to cut economic and environment costs.
Pakistan is far behind developed economies to explore such alternate resources for generating energy due to financial constraints.
Alternate energy resources are also encouraged to avoid undesirable consequences of the burning of fossil fuels such as high carbon dioxide emissions considered to be the major contributing factor of global warming.
The most common forms of alternate energy resources in Pakistan are solar, wind and biofuel. Our country possesses abundance of both sun and wind throughout the year, which can be exploited to overcome the energy crisis.
Industries have established businesses in Pakistan to provide solar panels to both residential and commercial localities though the costs are high currently. Domestic consumers are using solar panels primarily to test the system alongside power supplied by utilities rather than shifting completely to alternate energy primarily because of cost factor. Industries in Pakistan with high need for power do not rely on solar panels to support production. Solar panels are expected to be installed to support power requirements for an office block at the maximum.
Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has announced Rs50 million solar system project in the current budget for generating energy for people of Ormara, Balochistan expected to benefit those remote areas where connection to national grid is capital-intensive.
Such projects should be encouraged with adequate funding and protected from change in government, political interference, and corruption.
Pakistan is blessed with 320 sunny days round the year because of its climate. If proper funding is ensured, energy crisis in the country would be taken over.
Another alternate source for energy is power generated through wind. The race for wind energy in Pakistan commenced when wind corridors were discovered in Sindh and Punjab. The first wind project in Pakistan, Zorlu Enerji wind power, set up at a cost of $110 million at Jhampir is expected to supply 56.6MW electricity to the national grid once completed.
In addition, the government has provided Letter of Intent (LOI) to 14 other projects in both Sindh and Punjab to set up wind power plants in Pakistan mostly located in Jhampir. The wind corridor of Gharo-Jhimpir is 60km wide and 180km long with average wind speed of seven to eight metres per second.
Interest in development of wind projects in Pakistan is not only being encouraged by the government, domestic and international investors too have shown eagerness to invest in wind projects in Pakistan.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), USA in collaboration with USAID, has already indicated a potential of 346,000 MW wind power in Pakistan.
Biofuels are produced through food sources, which are considered degradable and nontoxic. Biodiesel is produced through various vegetables, which can be grown in the climatic conditions of Pakistan. The best source for bio-fuels are plants produced on land not under cultivation and can potentially provide employment to thousands of farmers and workers in rural community.
Biofuels unlike wind and solar energy are under debate since use of agriculture produces can lead to their shortage and increase of prices. Biofuels are made from various agricultural products most common being corn, palm oil, and sugarcane, which are also used for cooking.
In Pakistan, the risk for potential increase in demand for bio fuels may induce farmers to focus on cultivation of certain type of vegetables to be used for production of biofuel.
Due to global warming, there is an increased focus on alternative means of energy. According to estimates, the energy demand of the world economy is growing at a rate of five per cent each year. Currently, approximately 16 per cent of the world's energy needs are being fulfilled through alternate energy resources and expected to further increase year on year. According to estimates, proper funding and investments to develop alternate energy industry worldwide may eliminate the demand for conventional fuels by year 2030. Solar power is expected to contribute 90 per cent of total energy generated through alternate renewable sources, followed by water and wind.
In 2010, the world economy spent $230 billion on renewable energy (wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and hydroelectric) that increased to $260 billion in 2011. China, known as the largest investor in alternate energy globally, is expected to invest up to $20 billion in Pakistan depending on investment friendly and stable security environment.
The acute energy shortage in Pakistan requires immediate measures. The government should promote renewable energy degree programmes in universities to get the fresh ideas and solutions. The government of Sindh should establish alternative energy exploration and development authority on the pattern of the Sindh coal development authority.