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Fact sheet: renewable energy

Prime Minister (PM) Shehbaz Sharif this week, in a meeting with a Chinese company that is interested to set up a solar park in Pakistan, said: “Pakistan’s future hinges on extensive utilization of renewable energy as these alternative sources of energy could help generate inexpensive power”. The PM underlined the following: “The production of low priced-power would remove the burden of price hike upon the general public as a major chunk of Pakistan’s import bill was being spent on the import of costly fuel for power generation, and that it was imperative to move towards the utilization of inexpensive energy which would also help in saving of precious foreign reserves”.

This commitment by the PM was echoed by the Federal Energy Minister who is reported to have stated that the government intends to install 2000MW of renewable energy projects all over Pakistan.

In last over two decades, similar commitments were expressed countless times by the country’s leaderships. Also, questionable is the conduct of Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB), set up in early 2000s to frame policies and facilitate renewable energy induction into the system.

According to National Electric Power Regulatory Authority’s (Nepra’s) recent yearly report, Pakistan’s total installed power generation capacity is 38700 MW, of which 57 percent of energy comes from thermal (fossil fuels), 31 percent from hydro, 4 percent from renewable (wind, solar and bagasse) and 8 percent from nuclear.

The ground reality of a mere 4 percent share of renewable energy in our energy mix speaks for itself as to how sincere and committed Pakistani leadership has been on renewable energy in all these years.

The track record of earlier similar mega ‘Solar Parks’ installed in the country is not promising either. In question is the mega Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park located in the desert of Bahawalpur. The Park, with a potential to generate 1,000MW of power, was inaugurated on April 20, 2015 at a ceremony attended by the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It’s a three-phase project: (Phase I — 100MW, Phase II — 300MW and Phase III — 600MW). Reportedly, the project ran into a scandal of extremely low output and mismanagement. It is still shrouded in mystery or secrecy. Lately, the government was making attempts to privatise it.

On the other hand, a look at India, a country with similar land terrains and geographic parameters, is quite inspiring. In 2016, in accordance with nationally-determined contributions under the Paris Agreement, India made commitment of producing 50 percent of its total electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. India has successfully honoured its commitment, achieving the distinction of being world’s 3rd largest consumer of electricity and world’s 3rd largest renewable energy producer with 40% of energy capacity installed in the year 2022 (160GW of 400GW) coming from renewable sources. Ernst & Young’s (EY) 2021 Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI) ranked India 3rd behind the USA and China. In November 2021, India had a renewable energy capacity of 150GW consisting of solar (48.55GW), wind (40.03GW), small hydro power (4.83GW), biomass (10.62GW), large hydro (46.51GW), and nuclear (6.78GW). India has committed to achieving the goal of creating 450GW renewable energy capacity by 2030.

Three of the world’s top five largest solar parks are in India, including the world’s largest 2,255MW Bhadla Solar Park in Rajasthan and world’s second-largest solar park of 2,000MW, Pavgada Solar Park Tumkur, in Karnataka.

This achievement has largely been on account of indigenisation of solar hardware, software and technology, thereby, making the system standardised, cost effective and reliable. Wind power in India has a strong manufacturing base with 20 manufacturers of 53 different wind turbine models of international quality up to 3MW in size with exports to Europe.

Pakistan has to do better than announcing and inaugurating mega solar parks ending in fiascos. Indigenisation of hardware, software and technology, workable tariff structure and an incentives’ regime for power producer and consumer are the way forward.

In the absence of a workable strategy, the countless slogans of renewable energy priority in the country are nothing but a sham.

Farhat Ali, "Fact sheet: renewable energy," Business recorder. 2022-09-17.
Keywords: Political sciences , Solar park , Power generation , Geographic parameters , Shehbaz Sharif , Quaid-e-Azam , Nawaz Sharif , Xi Jinping , Pakistan , India , China , US , EY , MW , GW

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