Pakistan’s renewables dilemma

By Ayush Verma

Published on: Apr 17, 2018 


Pakistan, for long a nation seemingly in a perennial war both within and outside, has a serious choice to make when it comes to its energy security. It needs to make a push for renewables now, or risk missing the bus. With China as its all weather friend, the opportunity will probably never be better to take advantage   and negotiate some special pricing and terms to aid the push.


According to a new report prepared by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in collaboration with the government of Pakistan, the country can spark social and economic development with renewable energy while increasing their energy security and improving energy access. The report provides an in-depth view of the energy sector and also presents key actions to accelerate renewable energy development.

Natural gas currently accounts for the biggest share in the country’s energy mix which has struggled to keep up with the power demand. Limited by capacity to expand their domestic gas production, and coming from fields that have already been well exploited, besides being in its restive Baluchistan province,  the gap in demand is met by imports which have weakened their energy security.  Keep in mind that for the past few years, the country has been on the edge when it comes to precious forex reserves, counting on its goodwill with middle east countries to get credit and other easy terms for imports. At what some people would say has been too heavy a price.

Hydropower is another prominent source of energy in the country accounting for a third of the electricity generation with 7.1 GW of installed grid-connected capacity. Yet only fulfilling only 10% of its estimated potential of 60 GW.  However, there too, the country, along with its neighbour India lies at the epicentre of the climate change ground zero, with increasingly erratic rainfall and massive unfulfilled demand from farming and other industry. Nearly one-third of the country’s oil demand are met by imports imposing a huge economic burden on the budget.

Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General said, ” Pakistan is undergoing rapid economic and industrial development, which in turn is feeding strong energy demand growth across the country.” He also added, “To meet this demand Pakistan has a tremendous opportunity to cost-effectively tap its abundant solar, wind and hydropower resource potential. Doing so would support national prosperity and job creation, whilst enhancing security of supply, improving access and moving Pakistan towards greater energy independence.”

The country has abundant renewable energy resources that can be utilised for power generation and end-use sectors to help cure the country’s energy shortage. Solar energy resources should be top priority with  the declining costs of Photovoltaics technology, the sector now has active involvement of 400 MW over multiple projects which also provide more than 15,500 jobs for the locals.

Wind potential has been identified in the southern provinces of the nation, with a theoretically estimated potential of over 50 GW. According to the World Bank Renewable Resource Mapping, the country’s biomass resources were estimated to be at 25 million tonnes per year from Industrial and Agricultural residue.

IRENA’s assessment presents options for Pakistan to strengthen its policy, regulatory and institutional framework in order to accelerate renewables deployment. It suggests ways to strengthen renewable energy targets, examines the constraints of existing grid infrastructure, highlights the best mechanisms to reduce costs and address technical challenges, and underlines the potential for private investment in renewables for off-grid and rural electrification.

To further utilise the country’s indigenous renewable energy resources, Renewables Readiness Assessment Pakistan finds that key challenges can be addressed by:

1. Setting a target for renewable energy development;

  1. Co-ordinating the development and implementation of an integrated energy plan;
  2. Encouraging renewable energy zoning and competitive procurement to reduce overall system costs;
  3. Involving the private sector in the development of transmission infrastructure to enhance the grid:
  4. Devising a comprehensive distributed power generation plan;
  5. Developing policy and regulatory frameworks and implementation mechanisms that facilitate private sector engagement in rural electrification.”Pakistan is rich in renewable energy potential, and can with the assessment of develop policies, investment opportunities and energy development actions to harness it,” said Abid Sher Ali, Pakistan’s Minister of State for Power. “Critical to this report has been IRENA’s valuable policy guidance and technical assistance to determine our best available renewable-based power options, continued Minister Ali.


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