Developing countries like Pakistan are least responsible for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions according to the Global Economy rankings; the share of Pakistan in total global GHG emissions is merely 0.8 percent and it is ranked 135th in the list of global emitters on a per capita basis. However, due to their geographical location and socioeconomic fragility, most of these developing countries are extremely vulnerable to the threats posed by climate change. Global Climate Risk Index 2017 ranks Pakistan seventh in the ten countries that are worst affected by climate change. It also reports that during the past two decades, Pakistan has suffered over 130 events including floods, droughts and heat waves in various parts and the cost of the losses is approximately $4 billion. One of the ways through which Pakistan can contribute towards mitigation of GHGs is through adoption of clean and renewable energy sources. Pakistan possesses great potential for tapping into renewable energy as it is rich is resources like solar, wind and hydro. The government should ensure rigorous efforts at the local, provincial and federal level to encourage the concept of clean energy, both practically and theoretically, through public-private partnerships. This may require policy interventions to reduce the existing fossil fuel based energy mix to a renewable energy dominated mix to ensure cost effectiveness, availability, stability and sustainability in the energy sector of Pakistan.
The energy mix in Pakistan is sourced majorly by thermal fuels (oil and gas based) which have the high maintenance cost and adverse climate change impacts. Currently, Pakistan faces significant energy deficits. According to Economic Survey of Pakistan, it can produce 23000 Megawatt (MW) of power but due to increasing population, there is a vast gap between supply and demand, resulting in shortfall of 5000 MW. The potential of hydropower reported by National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) is about 41.7 Gigawatt (GW) whereas only about 6 GW is being harnessed. In comparison, India has constructed more than 3200 small, medium and large dams since 2012. By building these dams, it not only produces electricity but also benefits agriculture sector by reducing the risk of floods.
In the report ‘A Review of Federal Budget 2017-18’ by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) explains the energy potential of Sindh corridor – 50 GW of wind energy, 290 GW of solar potential and 5 GW of biomass potential. Unfortunately, Pakistan uses about 600 MW of this total potential. One of the major issues Pakistan faces is a high volume of fine dust accumulation which effects UV factor in trapping solar energy. These problems can be sorted by anti-dust and high-temperature versions of solar and wind power equipment. Moreover, local industry should be promoted to manufacture the clean energy equipment. Also with this, the industry should also be made a part of government policy. These actions will help Pakistan in many ways, helping in reducing capital cost, increase foreign investment, build the capacity of local workforce and consequently reduce the cost of energy.
To bridge the gap, the government of Pakistan is planning construction and installation of approximately a dozen coal power plants over the coming years under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiatives. The major investments are being made in coal-fired power plants, expected to be fuelled primarily by imported coal. Due to the low calorific value of the Thar coal, it seems that its use may not prove to be efficient. Furthermore, it requires a process that is water intensive which degrades local soil quality. A detailed feasibility study of the Balochistan coal reserve may yield a better quality local coal option with more cost effective results. The estimated budget for these energy and infrastructure projects amounts to around $57 billion, which is expected to help Pakistan end the energy crisis ( Energy projects under CPEC – Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad).
In addition to this, CPEC also contains some renewable energy projects which are expected to generate over 1000 MW including the remaining phase amounting to 400 MW in the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in Bahawalpur, around 600 MW of wind power projects funded through Chinese investors in Jhimpir and Gharo wind corridors and several projects of hydel power(National Transmission and Despatch Company Limited-NEPRA).Through this energy mix, around 10,000 MW of energy is planned to be added to the Pakistan electricity grid by 2020.These energy projects under CPEC will, of course, aid in addressing one of Pakistan’s major issues but the fact that it will have serious repercussions on the environment cannot be ignored. There is a dire need of policy interventions to make this process more sustainable.
Pakistan has geophysical prospects favoring the wind power based energy in comparison to solar. Wind power plant has a better return on investment and is more suited for the private sector through effective government facilitation. More than 600 MW of energy is being provided to the national grid via the ‘Gharo-Jhimpir wind corridor, ’ and according to Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB), it has the potential to generate more than 50,000 MW of electricity through wind power. Since Balochistan covers more than 70% of the coastal belt of Pakistan; it is expected to have more wind power potential than Sindh. Therefore, there is a need for the government to install wind masts at potential locations and carry out a wind energy assessment of the regions (Guidelines for Environmental Assessment of Wind Farms in the Gharo Wind Corridor- Pakistan).
The private sector has a lot of potential regarding investment in clean energy in Pakistan. As stated in the report ‘Integrated Environmental Examination and Cumulative Environmental & Social Impact Assessment 150 MW Wind Power Plant, Jhimpir, Sindh’ World Bank Group member ‘International Finance Corporation (IFC)’ has initiated provision of funds amounting to $238 Million to help build 3 x 50 MW wind power projects in Jhimpir, Sindh. Tricon Boston Pvt initiated this project and is a perfect blend of the public-private-donor triangle required for implementation of such projects
Fossil fuel industry is endangering our society in countless ways. Some of the externalities are easier to observe like pollution, and land degradation and more often than not the consequences are less obvious like increasing cases of cancer, respiratory diseases, loss of agricultural productivity and livelihoods. There is a cost accrued at every point of fossil fuel supply/value chain- from extraction, transportation, storage, sale, and consumption. Even the waste material is hazardous to the society. Hence Pakistan needs to make clean energy a priority. It is reassuring to see that Pakistan has started taking steps in the right direction of generating clean energy. However, well researched, strategic and implementable policies and measures are required which only focus not only on enhancing clean energy emissions but also side by side take steps to decrease the use of fossil fuel.