Sindh renewable energy potential remains underutilized

Pakistan continues to face the energy crunch due to the snail-paced work on the generation of electricity from renewable energy (RE) sources, reports WealthPK.

Sindh is rich in RE sources such as wind, solar, mini-hydro, and biomass, offering the cheapest solution to the country’s power woes. However, the pace of work on the generation of clean and green power through these natural sources has not been fast despite increasing electricity demand.

The federal government had planned an RE policy, but it has not been implemented due to the lack of interest in exploiting these natural resources.

Some time back, the World Bank announced a $100 million loan for the generation of clean energy in the province. The target was to provide off-grid solar PV power to 200,000 households, equal to 1.2 million people.

The Sindh government also complained about the federal government’s lack of interest in helping it realise the RE potential. During the PPP government in Sindh, the then energy minister Imtiaz Ahmad Sheikh had said that the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) had selected just one solar power project out of 25 in the province for competitive bidding.

He had pointed out that Sindh wanted cost-effective and environment-friendly energy from renewable sources and deplored that the province was ignored despite having a huge potential and a large number of valid letters of intent (LOIs) in the competitive bidding.

The Sindh energy department had requested that a complete quantum of 1000MW each for wind and solar projects, as approved in IGCEP of 2021, may be considered for bidding and all wind and solar projects of the province may be included for a fair competition.
Secretary Energy Sindh Abu Bakar Madni said the installed capacity of power plants is much more than they are producing because the fuel cost is higher which makes electricity dearer.

According to him, currently, most of electricity in Pakistan is produced from either hydel or furnace oil sources. The cost of furnace oil is much higher and it has become unaffordable.

“We need to produce affordable electricity,” said Madani. Most of the Pakistani power-producing plants are using furnace oil to generate electricity, whereas only 2,000MW is being produced through renewable energy sources like solar and wind, he added.

It is a matter of fact that Pakistan has been mostly relying on hydroelectric sources for power generation for many decades. Later, the country switched to the gas for power generation, which is now depleting. After the gas shortage, power generation was shifted to the costly furnace oil.

According to Madni, there is a lot of potential to increase the share of solar and wind energy in the national grid. If the federal government reduces taxes on solar panels and quality panels are produced locally, their cost would reduce manifold, he said.

A World Bank study urges Pakistan to urgently expand the solar and wind “to at least 30 percent of electricity generation capacity by 2030, equivalent to around 24,000 MW.” This provides huge opportunities for growth as currently, the total domestic installed power capacity is 43,775MW, of which photovoltaic installed capacity is 630MW, accounting for about 1.4 percent only.

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