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Mitigating electricity shortfall in Pakistan through renewable resources

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In today’s world, access to uninterrupted supply of electricity ensures economic prosperity. However, increasing emissions of carbon dioxide causing climate change, as well as the projected decline in fossil fuel availability by 2030, signals the dire need to promote renewable energy as the only viable source of electricity generation. Pakistan, like many other developing countries, is currently experiencing a period of economic development. However, it is clear that energy poverty is a real threat to the country’s socio-economic development. As a result, it’s industries are moving to other countries where there is more continuous and reliable supply of electricity. Although Pakistan spent an astonishing USD 15 billion on oil imports last year it is still trapped in the spiral of energy scarcity.

So how can Pakistan satisfy its electricity shortfall while completely relying on its available indigenous renewable resources? Several innovative ideas from India and Austria have been considered with regards to how they might be replicated in Pakistan. Mr. Narandra Modi, Chief Minister of Indian State of Gujarat has installedsolar panels on Narmada canal in order to generate carbon neutral electricity. In an interview with The Hindu Newspaper in India, the Chief Minister suggested that if 10% of the available potential is utilized properly, it would enable us to generate 2,200 megawatts (MWs) of clean electricity. The total length of canals in Pakistan is 62,648 Kilometers, whereas, no such green plan has been initiated so far. Pictures of the Narmada canal with solar panel installation are available at following link:

Similarly, solar trees have been installed in Vienna, Austria since 2007. These are basically street lamps in shape of trees with several branches and each branch carrying a solar lamp. It stores sunlight during the day which is then used for illumination at night. These lamps can be installed in the rural areas of Pakistan where almost 40,000 villages have no access to electricity according to an article published in Dawn Newspaper on 31 March 2011. Once successfully implemented in rural areas it could then be expanded to urban areas as well. These solar trees are completely off-gird while the ordinary street light operates on fossil fuel.

Another solution is pushed forward by Royal Philips Electronics which plans to install “100 lights centers” across rural Africa by 2015. Once completed, this project will improve energy poor communities’ access to clean electricity. As a result, their day will extend beyond sunlight. Further details are available at the link below:

It may seem insignificant but once implemented at a grass roots level, these and similar initiatives will bring about significant change. Likewise, the effective use of available space along motorways and national highways in Pakistan will provide land area for the installation of solar panels which can then be used for rural electrification. This project could be run in collaboration with China as both countries have timely tested friendship expanding over a period of 6 decades.

The initiatives mentioned above will not only lessen the country’s dependence on imported oil but will also reduce its overall carbon emissions. These strategies are simple and realistic, but strong political will is a pre-requisite for achieving this target. The solutions must also be taken to market using intelligent financial vehicles, such as micro-credits, that can carry a higher up-front cost whilst generating a secure pay back in the transition towards generating good annual revenue.

Ayoub Hameedi, Intern WWF Sweden

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