Pakistan – It?s time to harness renewable energy

Pakistan is a growing economy. The rapid growth in the economic sector has increased pressure on Pakistan’s energy resources. The ill-advised and short-term policies of the previous regime rarely addressed this issue.

However, the people’s government policy that if Pakistan is to flourish, it must become serious about the challenges it faces in the energy sector, highlights the importance, which the current government has given to the energy sector in Pakistan. To fulfill Pakistan’s growing energy needs, the government has undertaken a number of initiatives, i.e. RPPs, IPI, TAPI, coal projects etc.

However, for Pakistan, it is the time to get serious about renewable energy sources. It would not only help solve our chronic power crisis but also help reduce the alarming levels of pollution found within the country.

This was the message of President Asif Ali Zardari at the World Future Energy Summit 2011 held at Abu Dhabi. Since its inception in 2008, World Future Energy Summit (WFES) has evolved as the world’s foremost and must-attend annual meeting for the renewable energy and environment industry. The WFES promotes innovation and investment opportunities surrounding renewable energy and environment. It represents an unrivalled business platform bringing together project owners and solution providers with investors and buyers from both the public and private sectors.

Developing countries, like Pakistan, are simultaneously experiencing a severe energy crunch as well as deteriorating environmental conditions, being exacerbated by polluting human production processes. Moreover, experts are pointing out how deteriorating environmental conditions have begun to affect the capacity to utilize other conventional energy sources like hydropower.

For example, global warming is feared to be melting the Himalayan glaciers, which will place increasing stress on water resources for Pakistan as well as its neighbouring countries. This means that Pakistan’s chances to produce more hydropower may diminish significantly in the near future. The need for exploring alternative and renewable energy sources has therefore become vital for us.

Addressing the World Future Energy Summit, Zardari highlighted the importance of the renewable energy sources. He said that wind power was more efficient and effective, making it a critical part of the grid system in many countries and critical to the future expansion of renewal energy all over the world. The president hoped wind energy might hold the key to energy independence and environmental renewal in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. Solar energy, wave and wind power, bio-diesel and fertilizers from weeds, and oil seeds grown in seawater are all keys to freeing the world from fossil fuel dependence and fatal global climate change.

These new technologies may require capital investment, but the price of action pales by comparison to the incalculable cost of inaction. “If we can’t act boldly for ourselves, at least, can we act boldly for our children and grandchildren and generations yet unborn.”

Pakistan has 180 million population. Its economy needs to grow at an annual rate of 8 per cent in order to maintain the current standard of living of the masses. Zardari urged that Pakistan’s current energy needs must be met urgently. Pakistan’s current energy capacity-20,000 MW- will have to double within a decade to meet economic targets. The government has, in some small measure, stepped up and accepted responsibility and accountability, having been victim to one environmental disaster after another-earthquakes, floods, deadly pollution, climate change and drought.

Learning from the past, the president said, “We have turned increasingly to initiatives in water and energy conservation, high efficiency irrigation systems, the powering of water systems and houses by solar and wind energy.” Individually these are all small steps, but taken together as national policy, they represent a long-term commitment, a fundamental reorientation to the future of our people and to the sustainability of life on our planet. President Zardari said, “The quality of our children’s future and the survival of our planet are in our hands.” Zardari said the production of energy and its availability had become the driving force of economies.

Zardari said that if the funds used in wars were used in energy development, the earth’s environmental crisis would have been long solved. “If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago.” With higher prices and growing scarcity of fossil fuel, solar power is finally emerging as a viable and efficient source of energy. The entire world is facing serious energy crisis.

The imperative of economic growth and development for developing economies like Pakistan lends further urgency to the need to find energy solutions that are feasible, sustainable and cost-effective. Pakistan has a huge reservoir of renewable sources of energy including biomass, wind energy, solar energy and ocean tidal power in the vast coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan. For wind turbines, potential areas are Karachi, Thatta Quetta, Jiwani, Hyderabad and other areas on the coastlines of Sindh and Balochistan.

Two-thirds of Pakistan’s 180 million population live in its villages. For them, local-energy sources hold a great promise. Pakistan’s wind power potential is estimated at 20,000 megawatt but no major breakthrough has yet been made. On the other hand, Germany is generating 18,000 megawatt, Spain 8,000 megawatt and the United States 7,000 megawatt using their wind power. Pakistan needs to make an all-out effort to push forward its wind energy programmes. The same applies to solar power.

If the country is to be successful in its motivated plans for economic progress, quality of living has to be increased, followed by optional utilization of indigenous energy resources especially coal and renewable. Pakistanis must get serious about their future energy needs.

A well defined mission, a vision strategy and going for renewable and clean coal energy options would reduce Pakistan’s energy environmental and economic problems which would improve the socio-economic conditions, and would lead to a better Pakistan for its entire population. For this a new and vigorous initiative is essential.

By Sharmila Faruqui. The writer is Adviser to the Chief Minister Sindh on Information & Archives, Secretary Information PPP Women Wing Sindh.