Cheap and clean energy a right for everyone: Dawn contributor

ISLAMABAD (DAWN / ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Global climate goals will not change if Pakistan commits to net zero emissions. But Pakistan’s economic growth could benefit from a boost that current misplaced policies cannot provide.

Unless Pakistan redirects its energy investments, the energy crisis, circular debt and urban pollution will continue to worsen. Renewable energy (RE) can dramatically lower the cost of development, reduce pressure on foreign currencies, increase the reach of underserved communities, and reduce emissions for cleaner air in cities.

Pakistan’s energy policy has gone against global trends. Pakistan has abandoned its earlier targets of 1,235 megawatts of wind power and 430 MW of solar power, set out in the 2006 Policy for the Development of Renewable Energy for Power Generation. The alternative and renewable energy policy (ARE) adopted by this government in 2019 redefined the objective of energy from renewable sources by 2030 to 30% excluding hydroelectricity. This target was further reduced to 12% by the indicative production capacity extension plan approved in 2021.

IGCEP is committed to “the least expensive option”; however, he reconsidered the definition and included seasonal flow hydropower in the RE category, which ARE did not have. This change of mind effectively excluded solar and wind power from the equation and paved the way for foreign investment in hydropower instead of solar which can be put into service at a quarter of the cost and time. mainly with national funding. It also accentuated the differences between the provinces which have more nuanced perspectives.

This was all happening at a time when solar power had become the cheapest electricity in history – cheaper than coal and gas in most major countries. The cost of electricity produced by solar photovoltaic (PV) panels has fallen by 90% since 2009, according to the International Energy Agency’s annual World Energy Outlook 2020 report. Instead of following economic logic, Pakistan has looked away. Our neighbors, India and China, have followed the economic imperatives.

During this period, India reached the world’s fourth position for wind power and fifth for installed solar capacity. Their renewable energy production capacity has registered an annual growth rate of over 17 percent. The Indian government had an initial target of 20 gigawatts of capacity for 2022 and this was reached four years ahead of schedule. This rapid success was made possible by importing photovoltaic panels from China as the 1,000 MW Quaid-i-Azam solar farm floundered and languished.

In China, similarly, RE capacity has reached around 40 percent of total installed capacity and around 26 percent of total electricity production. India and China both now lead Asia in green energy and have achieved an accelerated rate of economic growth while reducing the cost of development.

The renewable energy market is created by the high costs and pollution levels of coal as an energy source. Its global pipeline has collapsed 76% since the Paris Agreement. Forty-five countries have already pledged not to build any new coal-fired power plants. Pakistan has announced that it will shut down two coal-fired plants producing only 2,600 MW while, at the same time, Bangladesh has declared the cancellation of 10 of these planned 8,711 MW plants. Pakistan’s announcements lacked both courage and homework.

No wonder the country has reneged on the commitment made by Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Climate Action Summit in December 2020, where he declared: “We will no longer have electricity based on coal”. It has since been replaced by more “imported” coal.

He was also engaged in the liquefaction and gasification of native coal. No plans for nine projects in operation and five other near-completed projects have yet been announced. As this is a new love story that just started a few years ago, Pakistan has yet to make coal history.

It is against this background that coal imports have increased at an annual rate of 19.26 percent. While coal-fired power plants were justified on the basis of lower grade Thar coal, in reality the energy wheel is run by importing higher grade South African coal. In addition to use for energy, coal is also imported for our booming cement industry, now propelled to fuel housing construction to turn around the rate of economic growth.

Once the cheapest source of energy, hydropower has now been supplanted by solar and wind despite their inherent time of day and wind speed limitations, especially due to breakthroughs in storage batteries. long-term energy.

With the exception of the Tarbela and Mangla dams, all other public sector hydropower projects experienced delays and cost overruns. The average unit cost of the 969 MW Neelum Jhelum hydropower project, for example, has increased to 16-18 kilowatt per hour, compared to 4-5 ¢ / kWh for solar power plants. In the absence of financial closure before the start of construction, the large dams envisaged (Diamer-Bhasha, Mohmand) and those along the water (Dasu, Kohala, Suki Kinari, Karot, Azad Pattan) will face similar costs overruns. Their price structure will be several times more expensive.

It is clear that the water storage needs must be separated from the energy needs. Solar plants can be installed in a matter of months, and the State Bank can help lower their prices further by lowering financing costs by simply extending loan terms to 20 years, instead of the current seven to 10 years.

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