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Prospects of Renewable energy sources in Pakistan

Pakistan, despite the enormous potential of its energy resources, remains energy deficient and has to rely heavily on imports to satisfy hardly its needs. Pakistan meets its energy requirements from a variety of traditional and commercial sources. Share of various primary energy sources in energy supply mix remained during last few years as oil: 43.5%, gas: 41.5%, LPG: 0.3%, coal: 4.5%, hydroelectricity: 9.2%, and nuclear electricity: 1.1%. The electric power generation included 71.9% thermal, 25.2% hydel and 2.9% nuclear. While prima facie there are dim prospects for Pakistan to reach self-sufficiency in hydrocarbons, the good option is the exploitation and utilization of the huge coal reserves of Thar and the other renewable energy sources. Pakistan has wide spectrum of high potential renewable energy sources, conventional and as well non-conventional, which have not been adequately explored, exploited and developed. Thus, the primary energy supplies today are not enough to meet even the present demand. So, Pakistan, like other developing countries of the region, is facing a serious challenge of energy deficiency. The development of the renewable energy sources can play an important role in meeting this challenge. Present observations based on reviewing the geological setup, geographical position, climatological cycles and the agricultural/industrial/urbanization activities reveal that there are bright prospects for the exploitation of various renewable energy sources, which include mega & macro/micro-hydel, biomass, biogas, wind, solar, co-generation, city and other solid wastes, utilization of low-head canal levels, sea wave & tide and geothermal energies etc. The country can be benefited by harnessing these options of energy generation as substitute energy in areas where sources exist. As Pakistan is an agricultural country where major part of population lives in the rural areas, the electricity generated by renewable sources will also improve rural life, thereby reducing the urban migration that is taxing the ability of cities to cope with their own environmental problems.

Energy is considered as one of the four major drivers of growth in strategic planning by Pakistan Government. The other three drivers are agriculture, small & medium enterprises and information technology. This article describes the prospects for the availability of renewable energy sources in Pakistan. Pakistan has wide spectrum of high potential of renewable energy sources, conventional and non-conventional as well, which have not been adequately explored, exploited or developed. As a result, the primary energy supplies today are not enough to meet even the present demand. Moreover, a very large part of the rural areas does not have the electrification facilities because they are either too remote and or too expensive to connect to the national grid. So, Pakistan, like other developing countries of the region, is facing a serious challenge of being energy deficit. The development of the renewable energy sources can play an important role in meeting this challenge. The total land area of Pakistan is about 800,000 km². The northeast to southwest extent of the country is about 1,700 km, and its east-west width is approximately 1,000 km. The geology and geography of Pakistan varies from lofty mountains of Himalayas, Karakorum, Hindukush and Pamirs in the north to the fascinating coastline of the Arabian Sea in the south. In between the northern and southern extreme ends of the country, notable and unique north-south oriented mountain ranges exist centrally bounded by the fertile plains of 3000 km long River Indus and western part of famous Thar Desert on eastern side, and by the Chaghi volcanic arc, vast tectonic depression of Kharan, and the westward swinging mountain ranges of Makran basin.

Hydropower source of energy is very well known in Pakistan and there is ever growing experience in this sector to develop the hydropower potential indigenously in the country. The hydro potential was estimated at about 50,000 MW out of which about 4,800 MW has been developed over the past 50 years through mega-hydel plants and the remaining has yet to be exploited (Kazi, 1999). The northern areas of the country are rich with hydropower resources. In Gilgit Baltistan, the results of the hydrological surveys revealed that there are numerous small streams and waterfalls with strong and violent flow having sufficient potential for electricity generation through micro-hydroelectric power plants. The recoverable potential in micro-hydropower (MHP) up to 100 kW, is roughly estimated to be 300 MW on perennial water falls in northern Pakistan. In the country, WAPDA, PCRET, and other public and private sector organizations, like Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) Electric Board, Sarhad Small Hydrelectric Organization, the Northern Areas Public Works Department and the Aga Khan Rural Support Program, are investing for the development of the hydroelectric plants of different generating capacity, i.e., very large hydro plants, small hydro plants, and micro hydro plants, since people are well aware and have become familiar with the relevant technology. Besides, there is an immense potential for exploiting water falls in the canal network particularly in Punjab, where low head high discharge exists on many canals. One of the largest irrigation systems of the world has been developed mainly in the upper and middle parts of Indus basin utilizing waters of Indus and its tributaries for the conventional flood irrigation. In Pakistan, the system presently includes three major reservoirs i.e. (Terbela, Mangla and Chashma dams) and several other smaller ones, 19 barrages/headworks, 12 link canals, 45 canal commands and some 99,000 watercourses.

The total length of the canal system is about 58,450 km with watercourses, farm channels and field ditches running another 160,000 km in length. The canal system has a huge hydropower potential at numerous sites/locations on these irrigation canals, ranging from 1MW to more than 10MW, which can be utilized for developing small hydro-power stations using low head high discharge water turbines in Punjab and Sindh provinces. For example, the Punjab province has an extensive network of irrigation canals, and at many sites, small waterfalls are available which can be exploited to employ low-head high discharge hydropower plants.

Pakistan being in the sunny belt is ideally located to take advantage of the solar energy technologies. This energy source is widely distributed and abundantly available in the country. During last twenty years Pakistan has shown quite encouraging developments in photovoltaic (PV). Currently, solar technology is being used in Pakistan for standalone rural telephone exchanges, repeater stations, highway emergency telephones, cathodic protection, refrigeration for vaccine and medicines in the hospitals etc. The Public Health Department has installed many solar water pumps for drinking purposes in different parts of the country. Both the private and public sectors are playing their roles in the popularization and up grading of photovoltaic activities in the country. A number of companies are not only involved in trading photovoltaic products and appliances but also manufacturing different components of PV systems. They are selling PV modules, batteries, regulators, invertors, as well as practical low power gadgets for load shedding such as photovoltaic lamps, battery chargers, garden lights etc.

PCRET and other public and private organizations have developed the know-how and technology to fabricate solar cells, modules, and systems. In addition to generate electricity, thermal energy can also be used for desalination of saline water.

Harnessing wind power to produce electricity on a commercial scale has become the fastest growing energy technology. Economic, political and technological forces are now emerging to make wind power a viable source of energy. Though apparently Pakistan has tremendous wind potential, but at present the facilities for generating electricity from wind are virtually nonexistent in the country. Pakistan has 1000 km long coastline, which could be utilized for the installation of wind farms, as found in UK, Netherlands and other countries. Pakistan is a late starter in this field. As of today, we have no significant wind energy generation project. Even the preliminary wind power potential of Pakistan are not available. Considering the significance of the wind resource model, Ministry of Science & Technology has provided funds to Pakistan Meteorological Department to establish a network of wind masts along the coastal areas 2001-2002 to conduct an extensive wind survey of the coastal areas to assess wind power potential (Chaudri, 2002).However, PCRET has started a project to install small stand-alone-type wind turbines to generate electricity in the southern coastal region of Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, where grid connection to villages is not available. The New Zealand Official Development Assistance (NZODA) has also provided funding to develop two wind-diesel hybrid systems to bring affordable electricity to poor villages in the desert of Balochistan province.

There is also scope to use the specialized wastes for energy generation. Waste from local chicken farms (chicken litter), forestry waste, wood waste from furniture factories, agricultural waste, hospital waste and animal slurry from farms are just some of the kinds of waste that can be used as fuel. Pakistan is not short of such wastes, but so far the cattle waste is being utilized to generate biogas from dug-waste successfully at the local level. The country has significant potential to generate heat and electricity by utilizing other kinds of wastes.

Two distinct types of ocean resource are commonly mentioned as possible energy sources: waves and tides. In both cases, the oscillating motion of an incoming and outgoing wave is used to drive turbines that generate electricity. It has been estimated that if less than 0.1% of the renewable energy available within the oceans could be converted into electricity, it would satisfy present world demand for energy more than five times over.

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