PAKISTAN IS spending almost 20 per cent of its foreign exchange on fossil fuels imports. Annually $7 billion is being eaten away in import of conventional energy resources that is equivalent to 40 per cent of total imports by the country, but the country still lagging far behind in tapping the vast potential of alternate energy resources.
A research conducted by the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, suggests that the country’s energy demand is expected to increase threefold by 2050, but the supply position is not inspiring in anyway. It indicates that Pakistan has almost 3,000 MW power generation potential in sugar industry through biogas, but it is hardly producing some 700MW. Study points out that the renewable and sustainable energy resources are the best substitute to the conventional fuels and energy sources. It estimates that Pakistan has almost 159 million animals that produce almost 652 million kilograms of manure daily from cattle and buffalos only, which can be used to generate 16.3 million-cubic-meters biogas per day and 21 million tons of bio-fertiliser per year. It can easily compensate around 20 per cent of nitrogen and 66 per cent of phosphorus requirement in the crop fields, the study estimates.
Highlighting the economic and social benefits of biogas generation, the research indicates that a biogas unit of 10-cubic-meter size is anticipated to save almost Rs92,062 per annum on account of conventional fuels spent otherwise. In addition, women’s opportunity cost, with introduction of biogas units reportedly increased; subsequently positively impacting household incomes. Research highlights that the livestock sector in the country is growing at the rate of four per cent per annum. Energy production by using animal feces is highly sustainable, economically viable and socially acceptable, besides being environment friendly. It points out that Pakistan is anticipated to act as an energy corridor for the region as it holds an important strategic location by bordering the Arabian Sea, India, China, Iran and Afghanistan. To keep up this position, the study recommends, Pakistan will have to strive hard for energy self-sufficiency.
It indicates that European Union (EU) has legislated that each member country should be producing at least 22.1 per cent of their electricity from renewable resources in order to stick to the commitment of producing energy from best alternative energy sources. Pakistan, by following the same code of conduct, may fulfil its energy needs and satisfy the role of being an environment-friendly nation. Nearly 70 per cent of the country’s rural population can easily benefit from biogas energy as these plants are low-cost and can be run with a small budget. Research discloses that demand for small biogas power generation units is increasing steadily as this decentralised source of energy can ensure uninterrupted power supply to villages. Though, many agencies like Pakistan Dairy Development Company (PDDC), Pakistan Council for Renewable Energy Technologies (PCRET) and Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN) are working to disseminate this renewable energy technology, but the need of a national biogas policy is imperative to bring this technology at the farmer’s doorstep and boost its success rate, the study recommends and adds that installations of biogas bottling plants can be an added opportunity.
In addition, the study recommends that Pakistan can also explore biogas potential of citrus pulp, paper industry, slaughter house and street waste. It indicates that poultry waste is ideal substrate to produce biogas. Rice straw, when used for biogas production in comparison with other resources like cotton gin, etc. was found best for methane production but when cotton gin mixed with livestock dung was fermented; it produced more gas in lesser time. Domestic bio-gas generation was initiated in Pakistan in 1959 and a significant number of plants are operational in different parts of the country. The government launched Biogas Support Programme (BSP) in 2000, which had achieved a target of installing some 1,200 bio-gas units, whereas another 10,000 units are expected to be set up in the next five years that would tap almost 27 per cent of the country’s biogas potential.