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Mainstreaming of renewable energy vital to beat country’s power shortfall

Published on 31st Aug, Edition 35, 2015

 

Renewable energy must be a important part of Pakistan’s energy plan

In the face of critical energy crisis, Pakistan needs to explore renewable energy avenues to improve its power supply. So far renewable energy is not important part of Pakistan’s energy plan. As per estimates, the country loses up to 3-percent of its GDP per annum are because of power shortages. Despite enormous potential, Pakistan cannot explore avenues of renewable energy mainly due to relatively less investment in this vital sector.

Currently, the installed capacity of energy in Pakistan is about 21,000MW, but the maximum generation is only around 15,000-16,000MW. This suggests that there is significant room for developing alternative energy resources that could help meet the shortfall effectively. For example, 50,000MW can be produced through hydel power, 346,000MW can be produced through wind power and 1,200,000MW can produced using solar resources. There is the need to explore, exploit and develop these resources in order to fulfill the current requirements of our economy.

In May 2003, the Government of Pakistan constituted the Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB) to facilitate, promote and encourage the development of renewable energy in Pakistan. The main functions of AEDB are to develop national strategy, policies and plans for utilization of alternate and renewable energy resources with an ambitious target of achieving a 10% share for renewable energy in the total energy mix in the country by 2015. However, we are still facing energy shortfalls hitting hard to economy as well as countrymen badly.

Following are renewable energy sources which can be exploited to overcome energy crisis in the country:

Wind Energy

Wind energy is an important area where Pakistan can benefit by exploiting it in an efficient manner. Globally, wind produces just over one-percent of worldwide electricity use. Pakistan however, lags even further behind in this area, despite the fact that in neighboring countries, such as India and China, the potential of wind power is successfully being used for electricity generation, albeit at a small scale.

In Pakistan, there are 21 areas in Sindh alone, where wind power facilities can be installed. Apart from this, there are regions in Balochistan and the mountainous areas of Pakistan, which have the potential for wind energy generation. Pakistan has a coastline stretching over 1000km which could be utilized for the installation of wind farms.

The wind speed at different seaside areas like Hawke’s Bay, Keti Bandar, Pasni, Gwadar, Ormara and Garu is high. In Pakistan, the average speed of wind is highest between 12:00pm to 6:00pm, as compared to morning and night times, and most of the time, the wind direction remains south-west to west.

Tidal Energy

Another area which demands immediate attention is tidal power, also known as tidal energy. This is a form of hydropower that exploits the movement of water caused by tidal currents or the rise and fall in sea levels due to tides. Tidal power is yet to be widely used anywhere in the world, but it carries great potential for future electricity generation in Pakistan, given the length of our coastline.

Solar Energy

Pakistan lies in an area with one of the highest solar insulations in the world, where huge potential for developing solar energy is available.

As per estimates of experts, Pakistan has an average of 300-500 watts per square meter in a day, and sunlight is available for an average of 10 hours per day. On the other hand, a typical solar panel requires between 75 to 85 watts per square meter. In summer, Pakistan gets more sunlight, due to extended daylight; hence there is greater potential for solar energy than in winter. Overall Pakistan, especially Balochistan, Sindh and Southern Punjab, receives abundant solar radiation about 3000 hours/year, which is higher than the global average.

If Pakistan installs six 80 watt solar panels per square meter, then 4.8 KWh of energy per day would be available. If the example of Sindh is considered, we have 320 hours of sunlight in the whole month of May, which implies that the average solar light available is 10.66 hours per day. With this availability, Sindh can generate 0.852 KWh per day with a single 80 watts solar panel. This is a one-time investment, which will give huge benefits at a very low cost over the long run.

 

Biodiesel

Biodiesel is also a renewable, environmentally friendly substitute for petro-diesel fuel, which can be produced from edible and non-edible oils, and animal fats. Normally, biodiesel blends can be used in diesel engines without any alteration. Globally, the EU contributes 71% in the production of biodiesel energy, followed by US (18%), Brazil (4%), Indonesia (4%) and Argentina (3%). The benefits of biodiesel renewable energy are environment friendliness, conservation of agricultural water resources, creation of job opportunities for local citizens, help in increasing economic growth and reduced dependency on imported fuel.

Biomass

Biogas in Pakistan comprises firewood, agricultural waste, and animal dung, all of which is available in surplus in throughout the country. Unfortunately, none of the cities in Pakistan has a proper solid waste management system, right from the collection of solid waste, up to its proper disposal. Much of the uncollected waste poses a serious risk to public health through clogging of drains, formation of stagnant ponds, and providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes and flies, with consequent risks of malaria and cholera. In addition, because of the lack of adequate disposal sites, much of the collected waste finds its way in to dumping grounds, open pits, ponds, rivers and agricultural land.

Micro hydro energy

Micro hydro projects are another potential source of energy. It is estimated that about 50,000MW of Hydro-potential is available, out of which about 6,595MW has been developed over the past 50 years. Additionally, Pakistan’s canal system with a total of 58,450 km watercourses, and farm channels and field ditches running another 160,000 km in length, has potential at numerous locations on each site (ranging from 1MW to more than 10MW), which can be utilized for developing small hydro-power stations, using low head high discharge water turbines. Punjab has an extensive network of irrigation canals, and at many sites, small waterfalls are also available which can be exploited to employ low-head high discharge hydropower plants.

Moreover, the northern areas of the country are also rich in hydropower resources which have sufficient potential for electricity generation through micro- hydroelectric power plants.

Denmark supports Pakistan

Energy experts told PAGE that Pakistan is an appropriate country for the installation of wind and solar energy installations due to high winds near the major cities and the availability of ample sunlight. There is a dire need to explore these resources in order to fulfill the current needs of the country. Mainstreaming of renewable energy and greater use of indigenous resources can help diversify Pakistan’s energy mix and reduce the country’s dependence on any single source, particularly imported fossil fuels, thereby militating supply disruptions and price fluctuation risks.

Pakistan can produce above 1,000 megawatts of electricity through wind energy. Danish companies had already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Punjab government for production of wind energy. Pakistan needs to focus on alternative resources of energy production, including wind energy to overcome power shortages. Denmark which had got world repute in producing good quality wind energy installations is ready to transfer wind energy technology to Pakistan. Denmark was also facing energy shortfall but it had overcome it by using modern technology. Now, Denmark is fulfilling 40% of our energy requirements through wind energy. We need to use all available options to meet our electricity requirements to keep the wheel of economy moving.

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