Cleaner Energy – the only way out


By Shabbir Hussain

ISLAMABAD, Dec 3 (Diplomatic Star): In view of mounting smog pressure and climatic changes, the country is facing enormous challenges, especially in the energy sector, as its long-term sustainability could only be achieved by exploring cost-effective and alternate energy resources.

The experts firmly believe that Pakistan will have to review its energy policy by exploring all available options to ensure cost-effective and environment-friendly alternate sources like solar, wind, and the optimal usage of hydel.

Such a costly fuel being provided to domestic and commercial consumers in a country bestowed by nature with abundant resources can only be described as the failure or negligence of successive regimes.

Cost-effective energy is also essential for the economic survival of the country by promoting industries and exports to bridge the current account and trade deficits.

Cleaner energy would also be supportive of mitigating the effects of climate change if we addressed these issues as a priority and decarbonized our country by overcoming our dependency on fossil fuels.

Addressing these issues also needs massive diplomacy, as Pakistan is one of the least pollution-generating countries, yet it stands among the most vulnerable nations in the world. Sandwiched between the two emerging economies of China and India, Pakistan is paying for the wrongs it has never committed.

“The future of renewable energy in Pakistan holds great promise as we are struggling to enhance energy production and control climate impacts at the same time,” remarked Caretaker Energy Minister Muhammad Ali.

“Therefore, we need to look beyond the existing phenomena to put in place modern mechanisms of energy generation while at the same time securing our environment, labor, social security, and industry,” he said.

As both are hot topics of this age, the caretaker government recently gathered experts to discuss this challenge at a seminar organized by the Information Service Academy (ISA) and the Alliance for Good Governance Foundation.

“The challenges and opportunities associated with just transition are inherently contextual, reflecting the place and people affected and their involvement and ownership at local, regional, and national levels,” the minister observed.

“We need to move away from greenhouse gas-intensive economic activities through financing, policy engagement, technical advice, and knowledge sharing as per our priorities,” he said. “The energy transition mechanism is expected to be one of the key delivery mechanisms to ensure successful implementation of ‘Just Energy Transition Partnerships’, an umbrella for international cooperation.”

He was confident that initiatives like the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) and the implementation of supportive policies and incentives for renewable energy projects could be driving forces for the transition.

“Diversified renewable energy supply enhances energy security and contributes to reducing carbon emissions in line with global efforts to combat climate change,” he asserted.

Since the situation is aggravating, resulting in a power shortage and a hike in tariffs,  the government has also approved the National Electricity Plan 2023, which provides guidelines and implementation mechanisms for the power sector.

Then there is climate change and rising temperatures that cause excessive snow melting, resulting in unexpected torrential rainfall and flash floods. Therefore, the country is left with no option but to transform into low-carbon and clean energy production.

Climate change is having far-reaching and disastrous consequences for Pakistan, and our governments direly need the collaboration of international partners and donor agencies to mitigate its effects.

“In this changing and competitive environment, clean energy must be our top priority. We paid less attention to de-carbonization, but going further with this approach, things would become more difficult for us,” warned Managing Director of the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) Shah Jahan Mirza.

“Renewable energy is one of the cheapest options worldwide, as its cost is falling rapidly,” he claimed and argued. Between 2010 and 2020, the cost of solar power dropped by 85 percent and that of marine and offshore wind energy by 56% and 48%, respectively.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the majority of the world population breathes in air exceeding air quality limits, and this polluted air and other avoidable environmental causes result in the deaths of 13 million people every year.

“Renewable energy is healthy, affordable, and environment-friendly, and we should fully employ its potential,” said former Chairman NEPRA Dr. Irfan Yusuf.

“By the time, we have a business-as-usual development scenario based on existing energy systems,” he remarked. “The unsustainable use of conventional biomass and the development of petroleum-based energy have many negative socio-economic effects.”
Dr. Yusuf pointed out that the main challenge in Pakistan is to foster an environment that allows investors to assess and manage risk.

“Well-coordinated efforts are required to enhance knowledge and human resources capabilities for better understanding renewable energy technologies.”

As he feels that this transformation could not be possible at the government’s end alone, he suggests facilitating renewable investors and developers to advance clean energy projects.

Since the situation is worrisome and current power prices have made the lives of common people miserable besides shutting down industries in the country, out-of box solutions are desperately needed to keep the industrial wheel going and provide cheaper energy to our people.