Provincial governments should generate energy and start building power plants on their own.
Energy is an essential ingredient of socio-economic development and economic growth of a country. All productive and supportive activities in today’s world are heavily dependent on cheap, continuous and sustained supply of energy. Industry, agriculture, transport, communication, services, education, healthcare, entertainment, water supply and sanitation; all are dependent on availability of adequate energy. Thus access to reliable, affordable and uninterrupted supply of energy is the key to economic growth and welfare of any society. Studies by International Energy Agency (IEA) and other international organisations also have shown strong correlations between access to energy, particularly electricity, and sustained economic growth, human welfare, governance and security.
Pakistan is suffering from persistent energy crisis that is causing hardships for the people, and is adversely affecting industry and the economy. The crisis had been brewing since 2007 and deepened in 2012 and it hugely negatively affected the economic growth and employment. Absence of effective planning, an economically and financially viable strategy and incapacitated regulator resulted in supply-demand gap. The situation has been further compounded due to high transmission and distribution losses, development of black-market for power and declining revenue collection.
Pakistan depends heavily on gas and oil for meeting its commercial energy demand. The indigenous reserves of oil and gas are limited and the country is heavily dependent on the import of oil. With the present rate of production, the indigenous recoverable reserves of oil and gas will get exhausted after 13 and 16 years respectively. Though there is huge coal potential (185 billion tonnes) in the country yet they are not utilized to their full potential due to poor quality, financial constraints, location disadvantage, and lack of experience in modern, clean coal-utilization technologies.
With the economic development and with efforts to provide enhanced access to commercial energy, the energy demand in the country is expected to grow rapidly. It has been projected that the primary commercial energy demand would increase at 4.3%, 7.3% and 10.4% per annum average growth rates.
The government of Pakistan has planned to bridge the energy demand-supply gap (about 57% in 2030) by imported energy. The development of options for importing gas has been constrained by the sensitive regional security environment, special technical issues, and complexities associated with commercial and operating arrangements typical of large projects requiring inter-country agreements.
If Pakistan chooses to rely on imported oil, gas and coal to meet its energy demand, it would be a constant burden on the country’s foreign exchange reserves, and due to continuously increasing price of energy, our export surplus would become progressively more uncompetitive, goods for local consumption would become costlier, some industries could face closure/bankruptcy and the country could face economic stress on a wide scale. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a quicker switch over of energy systems from conventional to renewables that are sustainable and can meet the present and projected energy demand of the country.
Potential of Renewable Energy for Power Generation
1. Wind Power
Pakistan has considerable potential for wind power generation in the southern and coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan provinces. Its nearly 1050 km coastline has steady winds with average speeds of 5-7 m/s throughout the year. Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has measured and recorded the wind speed and direction at 45 locations in the coastal areas. Wind power potential in terms of installed capacity has been estimated as 122.6 GW. The technical potential of grid connected (GC) wind power in the coastal areas of Pakistan has been estimated as 212 TWh per year.
Pakistan is blessed with tremendous hydropower potential as well. The identified theoretical hydropower potential is estimated to be about 41.5 GW. Only 16% of the total theoretical hydropower potential has been exploited so far. The northern part of the country i.e. is also rich with small hydropower resources. Other than 12 big hydropower plants, there are a large number of sites in the high terrain where natural and manageable waterfalls are abundantly available. It is estimated that the total potential of small hydropower in Gilgit-Baltistan alone is above 500 MW.
3. Solar Power
The annual mean values of sunshine duration in Pakistan lie between 8 and 10 hours per day all over the country, except for the northern parts. Among all renewable energy sources, the solar energy is the most abundant and widely spread in the country. Pakistan receives approximately 15.525×1014 kWh of solar energy every year, i.e. about 1715 times the current primary energy consumption in the country. Solar PV power potential in terms of installed capacity has been estimated as 1600 GW which is about 80 times the current installed capacity of conventional power generation in the country.
4. Bagasse-based Power
Presently, there are 78 sugar mills in the country. They employ high-pressure boilers and condensing turbines, generating electricity from bagasse more efficiently and cost-effectively. The technical potential of bagasse-based cogeneration in terms of installed capacity has been estimated at about 1500 MW. Potential of electricity generation from bagasse has been estimated as 7,460 GWh, which is about 7.6% of the total conventional electricity generation in Pakistan.
Dissection of Government Efforts
One of the major hindrances in achieving energy prosperity in Pakistan has been the lack of a coherent energy policy. Energy issues have been dealt with on a temporary basis while adopting a project-oriented approach rather than goal-oriented approach. The best examples are the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) of the1990s and Rental Power Plants (RPPs) of the previous government. The IPPs enhanced power generation capacity by more than 5,000 MW but costly furnace oil burdened the people and created a price hike; as far as the RPPs are concerned, due to lack of transparency, these only resulted in wastage of public money and gave rise to controversies.
Pakistan has been cooperating with Turkey and China in the energy field. Pakistan and China have a decades-old collaboration in the field of renewable energy, especially in developing hydropower projects in Pakistan. They hold regular meetings of the Pakistan-China Joint Energy Working Group to decide the future course. These initiatives are useful but, given Pakistan’s dependence on natural gas and the shortage of indigenously produced gas, Pakistan has been negotiating with states to import natural gas to meet the increasing demand.
National Energy Policy 2013
The Nawaz government gave a robust policy in 2013. To achieve the long-term vision of the power sector and overcome its challenges, following nine goals were set:
i. Build a power generation capacity that can meet Pakistan’s energy needs in a sustainable manner.
ii. Create a culture of energy conservation and responsibility
iii. Ensure the generation of inexpensive and affordable electricity for domestic, commercial, and industrial use by using indigenous resources such as coal (Thar coal) and hydel.
iv. Minimize pilferage and adulteration in fuel supply
v. Promote world class efficiency in power generation
vi. Create a cutting edge transmission network
vii. Minimize inefficiencies in the distribution system
viii. Minimize financial losses across the system
ix. Align the ministries involved in the energy sector and improve the governance of all related federal and provincial departments as well as regulators.
Suggestions to Solve the Crisis
1. The energy crisis would require short, medium and long term measures as well as some hard policy choices like being able to catch the big fish engaged in power theft.
2. Improve governance through power policies based on merit rather than vested interests, check power theft, ensure full revenue recovery, and curb corruption.
3. A well deliberated, clearly articulated and sustainable policy based on least-cost options is the foremost requirement.
4. Circular debt is by far the most serious problem that needs to be addressed urgently through creation of a circular debt retirement fund under an organization. The fund could be financed by a consortium of banks and financial institutions under guarantee of the government.
5. Across the board subsidies are never a good policy option. Such subsidies not only result in waste of valuable resources but also put unnecessary burden on other consumers and the public exchequer.
6. Provincial governments should generate energy and start building power plants on their own.
7. Renewable energy sources can be used instead of fossil fuels for many applications. Wind energy, solar energy, hydropower and biomass energy can be exploited for electricity generation instead of fossil fuel in the country. Overall, the renewable energy sources can meet 17 to 30 per cent of Pakistan’s energy needs by 2030. However, the basic criteria should be their economic viability.
8. Pakistan is blessed with rich hydropower potential of 60,000 MW which can be tapped to meet its current and future energy requirements. It would be worthwhile to de-link energy generation from irrigation and focus on run-of-the-river projects.
9. A well planned policy shift should be made to correct the energy-mix by shifting our focus from oil-based thermal power to hydel and nuclear power.
10. Pakistan must work expeditiously to complete all non-controversial hydel projects such as Diamir Bahsa, Dasu and Bunji Dams etc. Run-of-the-river projects should be prioritized as they are relatively cheaper; take less construction time and are environment-friendly.
11. Pakistan must make use of its abundant stocks of sugarcane molasses for making bio-fuels.
12. In the current energy scenario, nuclear power can play a vital role. Nuclear power is a safe, clean and reliable source of electricity. It has a key significance in providing base-load electricity and minimizing imports of oil, gas and coal. It is essential to continue with the development of nuclear power, even at a modest pace, in order to develop local capabilities and to meet Pakistan’s future electricity needs.
13. The area near Gadani, Balochistan, is suitable for coal project with potential of producing 4000 MW. There is ample land available with very low population density. The environmental impact of the imported coal project at this location would be minimal. An Ultra Mega Power Park of at least 3600 MW can be built there.
14. Direct electricity purchase agreements may be concluded with neighbouring countries on the pattern of Central Asia South Asia Electricity Trade and Transmission Project (CASA 1000), if prices are affordable and economical.
15. Conservation of energy is a huge source of adding to the energy supply. It aims at bringing the existing energy into efficient use by eliminating wasteful internal use, minimizing losses and theft. By a broad estimate, we could add over 20 per cent to our energy availability through conservation.
16. Steps should be taken to educate the public in power conservation by launching media campaigns against electricity wastage. Universities, think tanks and media can play an important role in energy conservation through innovative concepts and public awareness.
17. Public-private partnership in hydropower sector should be reinvigorated. This will help in raising financial resources for these projects.
18. Political consensus on the big hydro projects should be developed.
19. In Pakistan, approximately 6.3 million hectares of agricultural land is salt-affected. Salt concentration in the soil does not allow any cash crop to grow; however, this type of land can be utilized for growing algae for biofuel production.