Energy crisis and the role of renewable energy

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Asif MasoodPAKISTAN IS predominantly a rural society with low literacy and high fertility rate. The total population of Pakistan is over 18 million. Poverty alleviation can improve environment as well as quality of life for poor people of Pakistan. There is a dire need for lighting homes, schools, hospitals and industries. The total installed electricity generation capacity of Pakistan is 19,500MW. Most of the rural population does not have access to electricity and still depends on traditional bio-mass fuel, such as wood, coal etc. Many of us have to pay high cost for energy due to high cost of LPG and kerosene oil.
According to official data, Pakistans total wood area expanded about 35,000 km2 (about 10 per cent) between 2000-2010, but each year local resident removes some 1.2 million M2 of wood from forest for use as fuel. Kerosene oil is among the cheapest fuel for heating but is relatively hazardous for human health. The LPG is cleaner and safer fuel but due to high cost it becomes out of reach of the poor population. Most of power plants using existing technologies, such as nuclear and fossil fuels and did not come without a hefty price. These technologies have an inherent problem of causing pollution directly or indirectly. In turn, a disaster could be waiting to happen. About 10MW fossil fuel plant introduces 400 tons of pollutants in the atmosphere. Disposal of nuclear waste is a huge problem even for the most developed countries. Therefore, it is imperative to move away from pollution producing sources of energy in Pakistan and rely more on renewable energy sources.
Role of Renewable Energy Planning in Pakistan
As the name implies, “renewable energy” is that energy which can be obtained from a constant source, such as wind, sun and water. Despite the development of number of energy policies and plans, the priority accorded to renewable energy in Pakistan has remained very low. While acknowledgement of renewable resources as an alternative source of energy has been prominent in most of policy documents, little substantive actions have been taken for implementation of those plans. Hardly any specific incentives have been offered to encourage the nurturing of full-fledged industry based on alternate technologies for energy generation.
Pakistan is facing acute energy shortages. With a demand and supply gap of almost over 5000 MW and ever increasing prices of energy due to high fuel prices, demand of clean, cheap and sustainable energy is imperative for reducing dependence on imported energy resources. Developed countries and neighboring developing countries India and China have a considerable contribution of renewable energy in their Energy mix. Hence, promotion of renewable energy technologies is inevitable to sustain an economic growth of the economy.
Solar energy is the most readily available renewable source of energy. We are using the sun energy for billions of years. Pre-historic men magnified its strength to set a fire. Today, solar panels absorb energy from the sun to produce heat for cooking and heating, as well as, for generating electrical power. shutterstock_60771622
Most areas of Pakistan receive ample amount of sunshine, averaging about 300 sunny days in a year. Solar energy applications therefore are particularly feasible in the country. Although, small scales photovoltaic (PV) system exists for small scale level application, yet large scale adoption of solar energy has not taken place as yet in Pakistan. This is mainly because of the high cost of PV and thermal panels. However, a design improvement has resulted in dramatic reduction in manufacturing cost over the last decade. Solar energys use is also limited because of host of practical issues, such as energy conversion and storage, mismatched supply and load profiles and maintenance costs. Moreover, an absence of a clear cut policy and lack of fiscal support mechanisms for promoting the local manufacture of low cost dispersed systems have also contributed to its limited use. Presently, PV technology on small scale is being used for emergency telephones on highways. Solar water pumps for drinking water, refrigeration systems for cooling buildings and for hot water for domestic use are the other applications of energy from sun.
A joint effort at both the government and private sector levels is needed to meet the upcoming challenges. The alternate energy sources should be indigenous so that they should reduce dependency on energy related imports. A long-term policy for the promotion of renewable energies requires across the board initiatives encompassing a wide range of policies pertaining to energy, environment, employment, incentives, taxation relief, competitive return on investment, funding for research and development policies.
Significance of renewable energy
Properly assessed renewable energy options can become economically viable and be easily implemented in the form of projects based on solar, hydropower, wind or biogas. This is particularly true for the more difficult, remote and underdeveloped areas, where renewable energy can have the greatest impact. Renewable energy can also supplement the pool of national energy supply in Pakistan, thereby expediting economic empowerment, productivity and development of currently marginalized segments of the population. Decentralized renewable energy systems can also help to reduce energy distribution losses. The industry based on renewable energy would generate employment and business opportunities amongst manufactures and service providers. Therefore, the economic benefits are limitless to improve quality of life for end-users across the country.
Cost effective renewable energy will definitely improve Pakistans economic performance. Energy efficiency along with conservation measures can result in profitable business units. Thus, exploitation of these sources of energy can lead to poverty alleviation. Use of indigenous renewable resources can help Pakistan in diversifying its energy mix. This will reduce the countrys dependence on any single source, particularly imported fossil fuel. Local environmental and health hazards introduced by fossil fuel powered electricity generation plants can be largely circumvented through clean renewable energy alternatives.
Pakistans present low per-capita consumption of energy can be elevated through greater renewable energy use. The issues relating to social equity, such as equal rights and access for all citizens to modern energy supplies and poverty alleviation amongst deprived section of society can also be addressed significantly through widespread renewable energy deployment. Renewable energy can thus facilitate social service delivery and help improve well being of the countrys poorest.
The writer is Energy Consultant.


Published in: Volume 04 Issue 22

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