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The Clean Energy Revolution

By Tayyab Shafique

Pakistan is a developing country and ranking 6th in terms of population size. It has an incredible amount of natural resources and a variety of ecological regions from the Karakoram Himalayas in the north to the coastal zone in the south. Pakistan is situated along the Arabian Sea coastal line and has a sufficient length of highly productive coastal zones. Pakistan has naturally provided with a landscape having mountainous, nourished riverine and mangrove forests, and vital ecological services. Despite having incredible economic development and environmental opportunities, Pakistan has been facing frequent challenging issues including substructure, inadequate refined resources, infertile or obsolete factories, water and sanitation, poverty, climate change and energy crisis.

Pakistan’s dominant challenges are energy demand and climate change. Whereas Pakistan has been struggling to fulfill energy demand but it is also facing climate change catastrophe. Worldwide, Pakistan has little contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and rank 135th among all the countries, in contrast, as reported by Germanwatch Climate Risk Index, 2017, it ranks 7th on vulnerability to climate change adverse impacts having 30.50 Climate Risk Index (CRI).

Moreover, these adverse impacts of climate change are not in the distant future but are imminent. Indeed, Pakistan already has started suffering from ever-increasing frequency and ferocity of climate-induced catastrophes. As explained in Pakistan’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (PAK-INDC) report, the last floods (2010-2015) have resulted in monetary losses of over US$ 18 billion with 38.12 million people affected, 3.45 million houses damaged and 10.63 million acres of crops destroyed. Likewise, over 1200 people lost their lives due to the unprecedented heat wave in Karachi in 2015.

Energy is vital in the industrial sector, transportation, infrastructure, information technology, agriculture, household uses and others. Any nation that wants to grow its economy and improve living standards must secure a robust energy supply. The main energy consumption sectors of the country include domestic, industrial, agricultural, transport, commercial, thermal power generation and other government services. Though, Pakistan is an energy-deficient country, it mainly depends upon Oil (Petroleum Products), Natural Gas, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Nuclear Energy and Renewable Energies such as Wind, Solar, Biomass / Waste-to-Energy are the main sources for producing energy.

According to a study conducted in 2017 on ” Energy Security and renewable energy policy analysis of Pakistan” (Tauseef Aized, et al, 2017), the demand-supply gap of Pakistan’s energy sector is increasing mainly due to high population growth rate which is currently estimated at 2%, the demand is increasing while supply has shown growth at snail’s pace. Energy use increases with the rise of incomes. As more countries rise out of poverty and develop their economies, energy demand rises correspondingly. The energy is costlier. Due to volatility in prices, supplies are becoming less secure, even for several fast-growing countries. Therefore, lowest-cost energy become important.

Pakistan is a developing and an energy starved country which needs energy on cheaper cost. To overcome this deficiency as well as to develop suitable environment, marvelous efforts are required. The Government of Pakistan (GoP) is engaged to provide energy at cheaper cost. Pakistan has signed MoU with China in 2013 with aims to expedite the development of country under the umbrella of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with special focus (Early Harvest) on energy projects. According to CPEC Power and Energy Project report, Chinese companies are investing about $35 billion in power projects which will generate about 12,134 MW of electricity under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC is investing about $15 billion in coal power projects for generation about 10080 MW, about $5.619 billion in Hydel power projects for generation of about 2714 MW, $550 million for Gas Fired power projects, $1.35 billion in Solar power projects for 1000 MW and $659 million in wind power projects for 300 MW.

The renewable energy sources like wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, ocean energy, biomass energy and fuel cell technology can be used to overcome energy shortage in Pakistan.  Energy Sector Project report (2016) explained that Pakistan’s current energy generating capacity is 24,830 MW, though the country currently faces energy shortfalls of over 4,500 MW on a regular basis with routine power cuts of up to 5 hours per day, which has shed an estimated 2–2.5% of its annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Pakistan, being a signatory of Paris agreement and part of the international climate policy regime is obligated to achieve stabilization of GHGs in the atmosphere. Pakistan is committed to the objectives of United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for the global benefit. Therefore, Pakistan’s active assignation with the international community in the development of responsive global climate governance is a positive approach.

Together with other Parties, Pakistan is responsible for promoting and supporting low-carbon, climate resilient development. Being a Paris Agreement custodian, Pakistan must be proved itself to promote green and clean energy instead of other non-environmental friendly energies. Only clean energies can meet the environmental standards, regulations, and compliance. Clean renewable energy technologies can meet much of the growing demand at prices lower than those usually forecast for conventional energy. Renewable energy technologies (i.e., Solar, Wind, Bio, and Hydro) are clean sources of energy that have a much lower environmental impact than conventional high-cost energy technologies. Furthermore, clean renewable energy could enable Pakistan to achieve sustainable development and to combat climate change as well as it provides necessary support to get rid of our over-dependence on oil, while strengthens our economy and defense capability.

Pakistan has an enormous potential for harnessing clean energy and its share in the low carbon emission. Opportunities are unlimited in renewable energy sector.  The area of renewable energy sources is expanding day by day and numerous innovations, as well as applications, are taking place rapidly. As discussed in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, a research study conducted on “Renewable Energy Technologies in Pakistan: Prospects and Challenges” reveals that the decentralized renewable energy systems concept has been recognized as an answer to meeting the energy demands both in the household and in the agro-industrial environment. Some opportunities are discussed below as per study:

Pakistan has great blessings of God, especially it is idyllically situated in the sun-drenched belt and can get many benefits of solar energy technologies. The solar energy is lavishly obtainable in many areas of the country. A daily average of global irradiation falling on a horizontal surface is about 200–250 watt per m2. Only a single solar (solar WHAT?) has the potential of 2.9MW because of eight to nine hours of the sunshine per day the climatic conditions in Pakistan which are ideal for solar power generation.

“Renewable Energy Resource Mapping (World Bank Group) has also described solar and wind maps of the Pakistan shows huge potential in the west of the country, as well as biomass potentials opening up a new frontier for future development.”

Pakistan, also has another blessing of God is an agriculture-based variety. In our villages, every family has a sufficient livestock to produce enough animal waste and this can be used for the making of biogas. In our rural areas, usually, the animal waste is burned for the domestic purpose like cooking food, etc. This waste could be used for producing the biogas at domestic level. So, it is very good opportunity for using biogas to make small domestic biogas plants in the rural areas of the country.

The Wind is also another renewable energy source that could be utilized to overcome the energy crisis of the Pakistan. About 1000 km lengthy coastline in the south and some northern mountains of Pakistan has excellent resources for wind energy. Wind power is also suitable for Pakistan because of the existence of a logical wind corridor in the coastal belt of Sindh province with wind speeds averaging more than 7 m/s at a height of 80m 18 MW can be produced only a single wind farm on 1 square kilometer, overall 340,000 MW from the wind.

The northern part of the country is rich in hydel power resources.  There are numerous sites in the high terrain, where natural and manageable waterfalls are abundantly available.

The recoverable potential in micro-hydro power (MHP) up to 100 kW is roughly estimated to be 300 MW on perennial waterfalls in northern Pakistan, overall 100,000MW can capacity. Pakistan is basically an “agrarian country more than 60% population is involved in the agricultural activity, Millions of tons of solid biomass comprised of cotton and wheat stalks, rice husk, corn cobs and other crop residues are produced in Pakistan annually. There is a huge potential of generating electricity from biomass in Pakistan. Only the sugar industry has a potential of producing more than 1,000 MWs of electricity from bagasse. Pakistan has bioenergy potential of cane trash is around 9,475 GWh per year from Agricultural residues, 23,654 GWh from animal manure, and 13,900 GWh per annum from municipal solid waste.

In addition to the opportunities discussed, Pakistan is also blessed with other renewable energy sources such as Geothermal, Tidal/wave, Bio-fuels Biodiesel and Ethanol.

Pakistan has been in the limelight in the climate change arena for the wrong reasons, this obvious investment in coal and fossil fuel heavy energy should raise alarm bells, Economically, Pakistan has its sights set on becoming the 25th largest economy in the world; its ‘Vision 2025’, an economic road map, aims to achieve this through “human resource development, regional connectivity, knowledge economy, inclusive growth and shared prosperity”, and whilst the fossil fuel industry is having negative impacts on climate change  and could be cause of endangering millions of people in the country but the roadmap does take into account the “looming threat of climate change”, on the ground, the very real threat of climate change to Pakistan is not reflected.

The possibility is, clean energies required huge investment and however, fossil fuel based are possible solutions for mass scaled power generation on a short turnaround time but how we can compromise with the future threats of climate change and endanger the people. Currently, Pakistan’s focus is coal based power generation about 10,000 MW while planned renewable energy projects that together would generate around 3,900 MW, which means we are going to compromise with environmental and climate change disasters. Even other countries like Australia, United States, Mexico even China and several other countries are going to shut down their coal based power plants or employing coal capture technologies so that carbon is not emitted into the air and Pakistan is welcoming and relying exclusively even already we are inhaling unhealthy air and faced smog incidence like in Karachi and Lahore.

Coal based plants are significant in global warming, sulfur dioxide, 2nd major emitters of Nitrogen oxides, Toxic coal ash, mercury emissions, and other dangerous emissions include, arsenic, chromium, nickel, and cadmium. These cause human disease and death through strokes, heart attacks, lung cancer, and other respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Pakistan is already facing worse air pollution issues, more than 22,600 adult deaths in 2005 were caused in some way by urban air pollution. Released by the World Bank, outdoor air pollution alone causes more than 80,000 hospital admissions per year, nearly 8,000 cases of chronic bronchitis, and almost five million cases of lower respiratory cases in children under the age of five.  Air pollution will rise within the operation of the plants which may create more dangerous figures of affected peoples or drastic scenario.

We really need a clean energy revolution despite dirty energy, a revolution that makes energy available and affordable for all as well as environmental friendly which does not make harm to peoples, we don’t need climate risky energies in our country. Global Environment and Technology and Technology Foundation (GTEF) declared that this is essential for minimizing climate risks, for reducing poverty and improving global health, for empowering women and meeting the Millennium Development Goals, for global economic growth, peace and security, and the health of the planet. We should not make our image bad as Coal power plants would accelerate the trajectory of emissions will tarnish Pakistan’s image as one of the lowest carbon emitters.  The government of Pakistan (GoP) must consider clean energies as we have a huge potential rather than encourage killer energies.

GoP could fail to achieve Paris agreement compliance according to projected emissions reductions if we will not consider clean energies option.  The country really needs such a comprehensive plan to develop long-term socio-economic alternatives and, in the process, phase out its dependence on fossil fuels. Long-term planning rather than conflicting short-term needs will have to be prioritized. This alone will enable the government to improve the quality of life of its increasingly impoverished population. Finally, if the plan proceeds as it is, Pakistan could see a country-wide smog like a situation similar to China. The effects of climate change could also be made worse. The government either has to set up coal capture technologies on all plants or make use of alternate power sources which aren’t as hazardous to Pakistan’s future and its people and do not snag on clean energies.

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