Shift in energy policy

With the change of priorities in present government, power division is working to formulate a comprehensive policy to harness the potential of renewable energy resources including hydel, wind and solar. In this regard focus will be on increasing the share of renewable energy in the total power mix to 20 percent from the existing 4 percent by 2025 and to 30 percent by 2030 to attract maximum foreign investment.

According to a press statement released from Ministry of Power, the Minister for Power Umar Ayub Khan met the Chinese ambassador Yao Jing on Thursday and told him about the country’s potential of renewable energy resources. He was also apprised about the opportunities that Chinese investors can avail in projects of renewable energy. The tremendous potential of inexpensive renewable energy resources had always been ignored and skewed priorities of power generation from highly expensive fossil fuel like diesel, furnace oil and coal were pursued with a sole purpose of striking shady power sector agreements against the national interest. The agreements made with IPPs, in the second PPP government, Rental Power agreements in its third government and deals made with Chinese investors in the last PML-N government have largely contributed to grave crisis in power sector, particularly the hydra-headed monster of circular debt for the payment of which a futile exercise of raising power tariff is on to the detriment of the economy.

It is worth appreciation that a policy will be put in place to enhance the share of renewable energy in electricity generation. The statement of the minister office stated that the Chinese ambassador was informed about the bright prospects of investment in solar panels’ production,  local manufacturing of smart meters, fog insulators and equipments that are installed in power distribution and transmission system. It adds that the envoy was also briefed about the ongoing campaign against electricity theft and installation of smart meters project in the areas covered by different distribution companies and invited Chinese investors to start manufacturing these meters. The envoy assured that Chinese investors would closely follow Pakistan’s power sector policies and are keen to invest in the renewable energy projects.

It is pertinent to mention that Asian Development Bank (ADB) had sanctioned a loan of $400 million for the installation of smart meters in the jurisdiction Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) and Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) which could not be disbursed due the indecision of both previous and present governments. Commitment charges are being paid on this loan. The lender had also shown willingness to give another loan of $4 billion for up-gradation of the worn out power distribution and transmission system which is plagued by frequent breakdowns and tripping of grid stations. The Chimes equipments power transmission and distribution have short life and less efficient as compared to the ones manufactured by the German Company Siemens.

Like water, sun and wind, biogas is also a renewable energy resource. It is playing a significant role in energy generation in Europe to produce electricity, heat and bio-methane. There are more than 12000 bio-gas plants in Germany, Italy, the Netherland, Austria, Sweden and the UK. In Italy and Sweden bulk of bio-methane goes to compressed natural gas (CNG), while in Germany, the Netherland and Austria bulk of it goes to normal grid stations. Raw bio-gas is converted into bio-methane after cleansing and enrichment.

In Pakistan 62 percent of population uses some kind of bio-mass which can be converted to bio-gas and bio-methane if technologies of West European countries particularly the German one is employed because that is environment friendly. At present 50 percent of urban population and 90 percent rural population consume agricultural residue, trees and dung cakes. The country generates 43 million tones of agricultural waste annually, out of which 11 million tones remain unutilized. It is estimated that 50 percent of it can be collected in the form of bio-gas to meet 60 percent of rural energy needs.

There are three modes of producing bio-gas which include micro –plants for two or three families; small plants utilizing dung of 3 to 50 animals; and from 50 to 1000 animals and more. Some 5000 thousand family-sized bio-gas plants have been installed, most of which are under operation. These plants have been set up under subsidy programme. Small bio-gas plants have been installed to produce electricity and run tube wells.

Several bio-gas initiatives have been launched in the past but they did not achieve the desired impact and targets for variety of reasons. There is a need to have a comprehensive policy to exploit all sources of renewable energy.