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enter image description hereOn Friday the temperature touched 47 degrees Celsius in Lahore, coming close to breaking the all time record for the month of May – and on that day there was massive load shedding in the city, making life miserable for Lahore’s inhabitants. Friday was also when the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang ended his visit to Pakistan after giving the green signal to Nawaz Sharif that his country would cooperate in sharing civil nuclear technology to overcome the energy crisis in Pakistan. Just exactly how is expensive nuclear energy going to solve our energy woes (currently nuclear energy contributes just three per cent to our energy mix)? In fact, most energy experts don’t see a role for nuclear energy on a massive scale in the near future, especially given what happened in Fukushima in Japan recently. Pakistan is facing a massive energy emergency and we still cannot think outside the box.

Nuclear energy is expensive, messy and dangerous. As for our massive coal reserves in Thar, we just don’t have the state of the art technology required to convert the lignite coal (lowest ranked coal) found in Thar into gas. The kind of coal that Thar has is of little use besides conversion to electricity onsite. Open pit mining of the coal would require massive amounts of water, which is already scarce in the Thar Desert. Apparently there is not one single scientific study on record that claims that Thar coal is both technologically and economically viable. Why waste so much money investing in dirty coal when we are blessed with so many other clean and renewable resources like solar, wind and hydro?

Even if our current circular debt is somehow paid off by the next government and everyone starts paying their electricity bills and stops stealing from the grid, we will still have energy shortages in Pakistan given our growing population. Currently, the total power generation capacity in Pakistan is 23,500 megawatts; energy consumption has grown by almost 80 per cent in the last 15 years. The Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) forecasts the country's electricity demand will increase to around 40,000 megawatts by 2020.

We are also currently relying on expensive imported furnace oil to run our power plants (oil amounts to 32 per cent of the energy mix). What we need is to turn to alternative energy sources like solar, wind, hydro and biomass instead of relying on fossil fuels. Currently all developing countries are facing energy issues in the face of global oil problems and price fluctuations. Dr Tariq Banuri, who founded the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Islamabad before working at the UN headquarters in New York, has been emphasising the need for an “energy revolution for economic development” in Pakistan for years now. He has been warning the government on his regular trips back to the country that: “in future, non-renewable energy will become costly and unpredictable. Even current energy costs are too high for poor people in Pakistan”.

On one of his trips back, he had stated that “Pakistan needs affordable – Target $1 per Watt – and predictable energy. Current options are limited and expensive”. He called upon Pakistan to identify and develop affordable and predictable options, like renewable energy from solar, wind, and biomass. This was a couple of years ago and today, the solar panel cost in the country that was once 5 dollars a watt has come down to less than 1 dollar a watt. Internationally, prices for solar panels have come crashing down according to Arif Alauddin, who was until recently the head of the government’s Alternative Energy Development Board in Pakistan. He says that since Pakistan falls under the Sun Belt, there is a vast potential for solar energy in Pakistan.

“The cost of solar panels has dropped 80 per cent in the last five years. The government has also removed all import duties on solar panels. I think there is a perception in Pakistan that we are not doing much in solar energy but we actually are. In 2008 we were importing less than a quarter of a megawatt in solar energy and this year’s imports are close to 20 megawatts. This has been achieved without any government subsidy or direct assistance or support,” explains Alauddin. All over the country, the UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) systems are failing due to the massive load shedding which will not allow the batteries to recharge from the grid (the batteries need at least three to four hours of electricity to fully charge). Hence people are installing solar panels in their homes to light up their rooms and run their fans (these solar panels also run with batteries but you just need to add a converter). Sales this year are three times as much as last year and there are as many as 146 vendors in the country. Alauddin says, “We endorsed certified panels (certified by Germany) which are close to one dollar per watt as opposed to those half the price.”

According to him, with Chinese help, 1000 megawatts of solar energy will soon be added to the national grid. This will come mostly from the Cholistan Desert, where solar powered IPP’s are ready to sell power if they get the right rate from NEPRA (National Electric Power Regulatory Authority). “The solar on-grid megawatts projects are lined up and waiting for NEPRA to give a tariff. They need to know at what price to sell electricity to the Government of Pakistan.”

NEPRA was supposed to give the rate in February this year, but they have delayed the decision – perhaps they are waiting for the new government to form and a new chairman to be appointed.

There is also vast potential for wind power in Pakistan – experts say that in the Balochistan and Sindh provinces, sufficient wind exists to power every off grid coastal village in the country. Unlike in neighboring countries, the national grid is quite extensive in Pakistan, except for vast stretches of Balochistan. There also exists a wind corridor between Gharo and Keti Bunder that alone could produce between 40,000 and 50,000 megawatts of electricity. Work has already started on wind farms in this corridor and according to Alauddin, two plants have already been installed, producing 106 megawatts (one is 50 megawatts while the other is 56 megawatts). “Three more that are 50 megawatts each are under construction, and 11 more are in the pipeline.”

In terms of hydropower potential, there is no doubt that Pakistan has ample possibilities, especially in the North. Pakistan’s total hydropower resources have been estimated at 59,796 megawatts, out of which 41,045 megawatts are so far considered exploitable potential. However, the utilisation of hydropower potential is far from being realised (just 29 per cent of the current energy mix). In fact, a policy framework and package of incentives for private sector hydropower generation projects that was introduced back in 1995 has failed spectacularly. Experts like Arshad Abbasi, who works at SDPI, blame WAPDA, pointing out that: “the World Bank rightly proposed institutional reforms in WAPDA for decentralisation in order to increase efficiency in management.”

While developing our hydropower and wind potential is something we can work towards in the future, what we can do immediately, according to Carl Pope, a well known American environmental expert, who visited Pakistan in January this year, is: 1) Stop wasting natural gas heating water; free it up for industry. Countries like Nepal with far less sunshine than Pakistan meet their domestic and commercial hot water needs with low-tech, low-cost, quick to deploy roof-top solar. 2) Use solar pump/drip irrigation technologies to replace low head grid and diesel powered tube wells, and to bring new riparian areas under irrigation. This will free up electricity for industrial use from agriculture and avoid wasted water. 3) Deploy urban roof-top solar generation wherever there is currently diesel back-up. Note that roof-top solar electricity is already cheaper than diesel and oil originated power.

According to Pope, these strategies focusing on renewable energy “require no outside funding; only modest government policy and infrastructure support.”In his view, “small projects can help in the short term – but they must be done in rapidly growing, scaling numbers… Everyone can be part of the solution.”

Tariq Banuri felt that international support could be mobilised to develop a long-term renewable energy expertise in Pakistan and pointed out that: “China is closing old coal plants and investing in renewable energy. They could partner with low cost labour in Pakistan in these areas. Chinese costs are already lower than elsewhere.” Why couldn’t we have asked the Chinese prime minister to help us with investments in renewable energy?

Author Image

The writer is an award-winning environmental journalist based in Islamabad, who also covers climate change and health issues.

She can be reached at

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (100) Closed

Pok May 28, 2013 04:31pm

Do you have any idea about how expensive renewable energy is? People of this country will start burning KESC, HESCO, LESCO etc. when they see the bills

Raza May 28, 2013 04:54pm

Nuclear is so lucrative in costs that Japan is turning back to it despite having Fukushima disaster. Also German government is pondering over to reverse its earlier decision to close down all nuclear power plant. Renewable energy sources are acknowledged to be much more expansive than nuclear if we talk about economics.

Tahir May 28, 2013 05:00pm

Nuclear power is the most suitable source if we see on long term basis. the unit price is least after hydal sources. And a fact that most people don't know is that nuclear power plants are the safest and most reliable of all other types of power plants. their redundancy and safety is greater than other power plant. Their shutdowns are minimum and they have the maximum power factor as compared to other plants in pakistan. they are environment friendly. And as far as capital cost is concerned, after 10 years, they achieve their break-even point i.e. capital cost is retrieved.

Usman Masood May 28, 2013 05:09pm

Quite informative, though a little distressing, as the renewable energy is still far from being the centre of focus among influential circles. I hope some well-willing policy-maker stumbles across the article and seriously considers the recommendations.

Usman May 28, 2013 05:11pm

Why are you keeping it secret.You should list the companies and their contacts so people can call and find out the details.As my self living in USA have a family in Pakistan and wants to install solar panels to light up my home but I do not know any company to contact.May be Dr.Banuri want to monetize this secret.

Tahir A May 28, 2013 05:43pm

" As for our massive coal reserves in Thar, we just don

adil khan May 28, 2013 06:13pm

u did not mention the prices for the solar panels nor the electric production capacity which these panels can provide to consumers.useless article

Ahsan Masood May 28, 2013 06:14pm

Very informative article!

Though, would it be too much to ask if i said that i would really like to read an article which gives an immediate answer and reliable sources for the common man? How can an individual have solar panels installed in their home and how to go about it? The cost and feasibility of the situation?

a,khan May 28, 2013 06:40pm

This is exactly how we want it... less electricity, lesser we have to pay. No electricity, no bills.... our leaders lead the way into darkness.

Solar energy or any form of alternate energy is not the solution [and never will be]. Cheapest electricity can be had from the Lignite [no it's no coal] in Thar, Dams [include Kalabagh too] and Natural Gas we have around Kohat.

In a true democracy; there are no leaders [like the kings we have] and their job is not to have roads made [include obsolete flyovers here], streets cleaned or brag about measly metro buses etc. But legislate so the best development is possible and remove, punish those who do not do their job.

I'll stop here, I'm getting off the track [effects of 47 degree heat]. But the crux of the matter is our incompetent, corrupt politicians and their bureaucrats.

And great leaders cannot be kicked off by a government employee [so I understand].

Gohar May 28, 2013 07:02pm

We need to tackle this energy crisis in a multi-pronged manner and invest in both renewable sources such as wind and solar electricity generation (Lets take advantage of the boiling heat and costal wind) but equally in other more traditional energy producing routes such as coal, hydropower and nuclear.

Muhammed Waseem May 28, 2013 07:09pm

Germany a less hot country than ours is producing 22000 mw just by solar. Our total demand at peak time is no more than 18000 mw. If the coming government has any sanity, they should go for solar.

M J May 28, 2013 08:10pm

A very nice written piece Mr Khan. It is good to see that someone is telling truth about Thar coal. I knew that Thar coal is of no good use a long time back through a reliable source. I wondered why no one is talking about it. We Pakistanis are so good at exaggerating things.

M J May 28, 2013 08:25pm

A very nice written piece. It is good to see that someone is telling truth about Thar coal. I knew that Thar coal is of no good use a long time back through a reliable source. I wondered why no one is talking about it. We Pakistanis are so good at exaggerating things

Riaz Ahmad May 28, 2013 08:36pm

China has a glut of solar panel production, one of its major manufacturer is on the verge of bankruptcy because of Economic slump in the west. Pakistan can use this opportunity to negotiate with China for major major solar power installation financed by China.

ali ahmed May 28, 2013 08:43pm

it depends which source of energy will give more kickback

tariq May 28, 2013 08:44pm

Photo Voltaic Solar panels and wind turbines should be on the top of each roof top of buildings in Pakistan, it's free and renewable. Pay once and enjoy free power for 25 -30 years!

Abdussamad May 28, 2013 08:45pm

This is all well and good but everything needs money and we simply don't have any. When we do get money we have to work on clearing the circular debt, improving governance and increasing the efficiency of the existing infrastructure.

If we have any money left after all that we should invest it in the cheapest forms of electricity namely hydropower and coal.

A Khan May 28, 2013 08:46pm

Nuclear energy is expensive, messy and dangerous. And it would take between 5 to 10 years before the plants come online. So can we wait that long ?

I am surprised that Pakistan has not taken a lead on solar energy given we have so much sun all year round. Expensive ? Yes but plants or smaller units can be put up much more rapidly than anything else. Karachi coast should have more wind turbines as there is sufficient breeze there during the day due to temperature differential between land and sea. Some Turkish company has made some investments but this needs to be done on an industrial scale and on a priority basis.

VikasM May 28, 2013 08:47pm

Yes, the need of the hour is definitely to think outside the box with regards to the energy situation in India and Pakistan and come up with cheap and ready to use, easily available sources of energy. In any case renewable energy is the "FUTURE" and the sooner we get used to it, the better off we would be. A very poignant article and very well timed, considering that the new government in Pakistan is about to begin its' innings.

deva May 28, 2013 09:26pm

Take clue from Gujarat India..Mr Modi sets an example by producing highest renewable energy. He subsidized projects related to renewable energy, used space available etc. Renewable energy is in interest of Earth(world) not just Pakistan. So dont think trying to gloryfying mr modi

riaz akbar May 28, 2013 09:55pm

There is dire need to impose emergency energy solutions to overcome load shedding. This can only be achieved by tapping all available renewable methods including use of energy saver bulbs simultaneously. The government may afford to provide subsidy in order to provide energy saver at cheap rates to masses.

Salman May 28, 2013 11:25pm

Thank you for a well written and informed article. Solar energy should indeed be a vital part of our power crisis solution.

kdspirited May 28, 2013 11:46pm

Rina my thoughts exactly. The answer to your question in the last paragraph is there is no kick backs and money to be made on low cost renewable energy. Thats why the Chinese were not asked for it. This is Pakistan's most immediate hope and I wish and pary someone to have the vision to make it happen. The only question I have is if this has been happening since 2008 then why have we not seen a bigger widespread use of solar power in the country

Tamilslevan May 29, 2013 12:42am

Check across the border with Gujarat CM Mr. Narendar Modi who has made his state # 1 in construction of solar power in the world. Look at his approach and this can be adopted in Pakistan too. Let peace between our countries prevail.

Khawar T khyam May 29, 2013 12:44am

Very good article. But I am still wondering why these solar panels cannot be manufactured in Pakistan. I am not an expert on solar panels manufacturing but just inquisitive, In my opinion the local companies should promote solar energy in Pakistan. At least they should provide some sort of solution for individual homes. Specially during day time installation of few solar panels can provide electricity for day time without using any batteries. I have seen lot of Pakistani engineering doing wonders in the field of science. But in the sector of renewable energy we should also work on individual home solution. In USA there are so many companies who are ready to install solar panels at your roof top or in your backyard and then they can collect their investment in the forms of bills. Why this approach cannot be adopted in Pakistan. If we can run few fans and light bulbs on solar panels we can definitely save ourselves some energy for other useful purposes. Khawar Khyam

Hrleen May 29, 2013 01:52am

With due respect to the author I beg to differ with the opinions expressed in article. I have read several articles on these renewable sources of energy but in real life their outputs are limited, set-up and maintenance expensive and not simple and there is not even a single country in the world that gets all its energy from these so called renewable resources. It is just like myths being spread by Hakims and Vaids that all allopathy drugs have terrible side effects. I am a great admirer of Japanese, if they are going back to Nuclear energy it means it is a viable option. Nuclear energy is a cheap, sustainable, reliable and ecologically least destructive option for countries like India and Pakistan where there is terrible shortages. Renewable sources are like salad or pickle while Nuclear or Hydro is main course meal. One can not replace other .

Wasim Habib May 29, 2013 01:55am

The biggest step forward is to conserve energy at the most using efficient energy star appliances and energy savers. The consumption of electricity goes down dramatically when the nation as a whole follow the energy saving tips.

There is no focus on prioritizing the use of electricity. Politicians often tout providing electricity to poor villagers, for free, (if you recall "meray gaon main bijli ayi hai" etc.) who have no idea how to use if efficiently. The politicians do it for votes and this is happening in Pakistan since the democracy restored in 1980s.

The biggest use of electricity should be for productive uses and not for entertainment.

Once the nation prioritize their use of electricity, then only it can go on a sustainable path of producing more and saving more. Pakistan is in a vicious downward spiral and only a strong and wise leader can break that spiral. I don't see any such leadership around in Pakistan.

May Allah give us guidance to think collectively as a nation, and not just for our individual point-scoring.

Rehan May 29, 2013 01:55am

Dr. Samar completed his Experiment, watch him on you tube, this coal is suitable for use for Electricity and byproduct is Diesel.

shami May 29, 2013 02:49am

Renewable energy (solar,wind) could be a very good alternative to other forms of energy in Pakistan. Take example of Germany where about 20% of total electrical power produced is by solar energy even though half of the year no sun shines but still the German government is promoting the renewable forms of energy. Pakistan could benefit from solar energy as most of the year the sun shines there. This could surely help to overcome the energy crisis to some extent.

HNY2013 May 29, 2013 04:28am

There are two sides of the story. If solar power was the BEST thing it would have been most expensive by now. As one solar company after another goes out of business, here is what investors do not know and promoters will not tell you: Solar panels do not work that well. A large solar array is not just one system but thousands. Each panel a mini-power plant. And the only way to figure out if the individual panels were working was to test each one. Solar panels have to be cleaned, sometimes often. And the place where they need the most cleaning is where solar panels work the best: The desert. But that is where water is scarce and expensive.

Numaan Ahmad May 29, 2013 04:48am

Gujarat's Charanka Solar Park will be completed soon to give 500MW at a cost of $280m. Why don't we construct 20 such for about $5.6bn that produce 10,000MW? This far exceeds the 8500MW shortfall seen last summer.It would last at least 25 years, saving us substantial spending on non-renewable energy to power our plants. Solar farms could be constructed near industrial & agriculture hot spots to help boost the economy. The $5.6bn is fraction of the $15bn we would owe Saudi Arabia should any energy deal with them be worked. Not to mention that would be a short term fix only.

Beg May 29, 2013 06:43am

Please google for photovoltaic ink.

Hasan Hasni May 29, 2013 07:17am

This is total crap. Renewable energy production can be employed by households only. This will never be feasible at the production level for Electrical supply for distribution purpose. My honest opinion of being from the industry for last 25 years is to produce energy by Coal and Hydro only. Solar or Wind only employed if product manufactured locally. No imports of Solar or Wind shall be allowed to waste Foreign exchange.

naeem May 29, 2013 08:29am

@Muhammed Waseem: Germany is a world leader in Solar Panels. They have less sun than even Pakistan. Currently they even lead countries Australia in Solar products and innovation.

malik May 29, 2013 08:37am

@Usman: They are selling a 1Kw system for around $1600.

kkhan May 29, 2013 08:46am

Hi guys, I am a pakistani live in Australia. I installed 4KW solar system on my house roof. It generates enough electricity for my house. enough for all lights, TV, Fridge , washing machine and a small aircondition.Also if I donot utilise all the energy the remaining energy goes to the grid, and the energy company will pay some amount for that extra energy we generate utilize by energy company. It cost me around $3500 which is 300000Pak rupees. If we paid 10000 pupees for energy bill within 3 years we almost paid off the solar cost. Also the design life of these panels are 25 years.

khurram iftikhar May 29, 2013 08:51am

I think every single Pakistani know the problem and almost 70% know the solution too. But the problem remains the same as our leaders don't have "will" to overcome the darkness. What about "Kala- Bagh Dam"? What is the progress on "Basha Dam"? why can;t the expedite the process?. We just need some sincere efforts and that's all.

Our nation is frustrated and now, this frustration in turning into chaos.

Saher May 29, 2013 09:23am

Pakistan has one of the largest canals systems in the world which are mostly located in the high temperature areas of Sindh and Punjab. As India has made use of these 2 factors in their State of Gujrat by successfully launching the Canal Solar Power Project. The pilot project will generate 1.6 million units of clean energy per annum and also prevent evaporation of 9 million litres of water annually from the canals. The project virtually eliminates the requirement to acquire vast tracts of land and limits evaporation of water from the 750 meter long canal, tackling two challenges simultaneously by providing energy and water security. If we were to duplicate this for all our canals, we will be tackling 2 of the major problems being faced by the nation currently; electricity and water shortage.

Imanul Haque May 29, 2013 09:37am

@Khawar T khyam: The culture of corruption and bad supply installation make it difficult.

Ahmed May 29, 2013 09:41am

@Khawar T khyam: Initially Pakistan does not has to build the solar panels. It will be cheaper to import from China or Korea. Let the market place decide whether to build or import it, but Pakistan must utilize the renewable energy. If the corrupt rulers wants to make money, they hold on tho this unless either they can make money or some pay them huge bribe

Noor May 29, 2013 10:03am

Nuclear power plant, if built at accost of Rs 3b, will need at least Rs 10b to dismantle safely at the end of its life. Our issue already is the cost of electricity production, i.e, oil cost, which we're unable to afford(apart from the reson of mismanagement and non-collection of bills from influential ones). We should still focus on cheap & green energy. Subsidy by international organisations will enable Pakistanis go greener on Solar and depend lesser on national grid. Karachi Hyderabad area has potential of 43000MW wind energy @ Rs 12/unit for 6 years and then after pay back of bank loan it comes to Rs 6/unit, as opposed to Rs 35/unit purchased during previous BB govt provided by IPPs.

Osman May 29, 2013 10:31am

Let's put the facts straight: Sollar Energy is efficient and renewable, but it is still 4 to 5 times more expensive than Hydel or Coal fired Thermal plants.

Pakistan's current energy solution: If one is to believe that Saudi will give Pakistan $15Billion in grants over 3 years, Pakistan should use $10-12Billion of that grant to build medium sized 3 dams across Pakistan (to produce cheap electricity, reduce water shortages, and manage energy wastage when distributing electricity); and $3-5Billion to convert all existing IPPs to coal-fired. This will be a long term strategy: it will ensure that Pakistan will have the capacity to produce electricity cheaply for a long long time to come. It will also give Pakistan/NEPRA the right to re-negotiate tariffs will all IPPs and bring the power purchase agreements in line with Pakistan's Power Purchase Policy: allow max 17% IRR on IPP owners' equity investments.

Ghalib Khan May 29, 2013 10:48am

In the present scenario I think Wind Energy is the Most feasible option.

Please keep on publishing these type of articles, and please email one copy to the our new rulers. Also please send somebody to actually read it to them.

bloggsaa111 May 29, 2013 11:54am

To some extent I disagree with some contents and facts of this article, mostly because of my conversations with intellects working in Power sector. The solution we need is three-fold, short term, middle term and long term. In short term, we need to upgrade our current power plants and clear debts owed to them or by them. Currently Pakistan can produce enough electricity to almost reduce the shortage to none. Evidence is quite visible during election times and Ramazan time. Thus, we need to utilize and maintain present sources of power production that we all-ready have in place to overcome the misery on urgent basis. For middle term, we need to construct new power plants and also convert the current furnace oil plants to coal and/or bio fuel. Technologies like bio-fuel, rice husk burning and garbage burning can help achieve that goal. Work has all-ready started on most of these technologies by major industrialists. Coal needs to be converted to good quality and that is easily achievable if government invests in that area. Long term planning only comes down to nuclear power plants and building dams. China does not have the technology to provide us with nuclear power plants bigger than 300 MW and other nations like Germany, UK and USA that have the technology to produce generation in 1000s of MW are not eager to share their nuclear technologies with us. That rules out nuclear technology which leaves us with DAMS. Dams can solve Pakistan problem only if somehow government starts to think on long term planning. On average a dam requires 5 years to be built and become operational. Commenting on the risk of nuclear power plants and earthquakes, I must say that Dams are equally catastrophic from earthquake point of view regardless of the nature of damage they cause. Civil Engineers have the solution to mitigate to solve problems with earthquake design, so i am very confident that is not an issue. Lastly, technologies like wind power, solar power, tidal power are not solution of Pakistan,s problem. Little research shows that they seem to be popular and in demand in only those countries that currently are NOT facing any power shortage problems. These technologies are expensive, have too many variables and output is less. I sincerely think that Pakistani government should not focus much on these renewable options as currently, the need of the hour is different.

rich05 May 29, 2013 12:01pm

@Tahir A: muslim countries do not invent anything, get real

Tony Abidi May 29, 2013 12:24pm

@Khawar T khyam: The solar panels are made with either thick film or thin film doping on substrates that are part of the solar cell. How can we manufacture solar cells when we cannot make simple metal nuts and bolts.

Adnan Latif May 29, 2013 12:29pm

I installed solar panels on the roof top of our hotel in Lahore. These charge UPS batteries. I tried to cut down the use of diesel generator and took a number of other measures such as: white washing the roof top to lower the building temperature, re-locating air conditioners, etc. These measures resulted in decrease in electricity and diesel generator bills. I agree with the writer that solar has a substantial role to play in a country like Pakistan. I have a solar geyser for water heating as well. It is good for laundry. Solar installations are expensive and if there is a bank finance scheme, a lot more people will install these.

Umar May 29, 2013 12:47pm


This is just a laymen account of how to solve our energy crisis. The reason why the world is slowly adapting to solar energy is because of cost economics. If your investment has a pay back period of ten years and the cost of the solar panels is constantly falling investors will wait up till the point where the falling prices stabilizes. Currently the installation of solar panels is feasible only with heavy subsidies or where the power infrastructure is a Smart Grid with Smart meter installation. Solar panels is just one of the technologies that are cheaper and highly inefficient in converting solar power to electrical power. Solar concentration technologies like the one installed in Spain or Solar Sterling engine technologies currently being manufactured and tested in Pakistan by AE Designs are one of the pieces of the puzzle top solve our energy crisis. We need alternate and sustainable energy but they are the long run solutions to the problem, currently in the short run we need only combined cycle gas turbines based on imported LNG to solve our energy crisis or coal fired power plants. With long term contracts and the prices of gas and imported coal at historically low levels we can generate more energy than we need. That only in three years, This will still be highly cheaper than any project to be set up in the renewable sector(except hydro power). This upfront cost of any renewable energy project(except hydro) as approved by the GOP is more than 11 cent per unit effectively the government is buying this renewable power for Rs. 11 per unit thus increasing the power tariff. The cost of manufacturing power from Gas or Coal fired power plants is in the range of 6 to 9 cent per unit based on the scale. Significantly lower than any other way to generate the power. This will be reliable power compared to renewable technologies that are dependent on solar or wind for power generation. Also the Pakistani grid has to be upgraded to a smart grid with smart meters so that the menace of electricity theft and line losses can be controlled. These are some of the measures through which this problem can be controlled. These are short run solution. The use of renewable energy is a long run solution and the technology is not mature enough to make practical and economic sense.

Umar May 29, 2013 12:48pm

Check this technology Made in Pakistan with the help of Sweden.

Kamal Gupta May 29, 2013 01:04pm

Besides large scale solar power plants, there is an ideal solution of installing micro solar plants in villages for local consumption. What can be done is to find a village level entrepreneur who could install a small say 20- 100 KW plant, lay the distribution cables within the village, and provide say 50W to 1KW connection to each household.

LED lamps consume 2W to 6W, last very long, but are pricey. CFL lamps consume 6W to 20W and can easily light up one room. In India, we get energy efficient fans that consume 12W to 40W.

This business model is becoming very popular in Indian villages. The entrepreneur charges on connected load basis (no metering), and since he is a local person who also does positive service, he gets paid.

This will not solve Pakistan's entire problem, but can be a major benefit at the village level, where power outages are much more.

sal May 29, 2013 01:36pm

There are many many options. Wind farms, micro-turbines on buildings, micro-hydro generation. Solar is not the only option but in a country where the pervasive corruption (from top to bottom) prevents projects going ahead, its a bit pie in the sky. Maybe the next generation can sort it out.

Parvez May 29, 2013 02:15pm

Whatever has to be done or is being done, must be done without involving the government.

Kashif May 29, 2013 02:33pm

Very well pointed out by the author about the constraints of Nuclear Power Reactors. God knows why our rulers/politicians are hungry for Civil Nuclear Power Reactors when its near to obsolete, expensive to maintain & produce electricity and dangerous if gets out of control. Yes the potential of Solar powered tubewells, water heater & grid, hydral and Wind turbines is the future, if we ever want to move forward and stops worrying about electricity issues all the time.

deva May 29, 2013 03:16pm

@HNY2013: Swami Vivekananda "Each work has to pass through three stages: Ridicule, opposition and acceptance ". Lot many lobby(Oil companies and automotive industry) is on day night work to oppose suppress the renewable energy solutions. But this is the ultimate future.

Asam Khan May 29, 2013 03:22pm

I agree with almost everything you have said in the article - except the nuclear part. Pakistan is one of the few countries to have fully mastered the front-end of the nuclear fuel cycle (mining Uranium, separating it, enriching it and then fueling it in a reactor).

It is close to mastering the back-end of the cycle (removing spent fuel from the reactor, reprocessing the fuel to extract newly generated fissile fuel - that can be used again to produce electricity).

With a closed nuclear fuel cycle - Nuclear energy has the potential to completely meet our energy needs for the foreseeable future without the need to import any oil, gas, coal etc. Although this would not be a good strategy for any country to put its eggs in one basket, I concur that diversifying with renewables such as solar, hydro and wind (combined with existing coal, gas and an enhanced nuclear sector) - is the best way to go.

It is sad that our defense policy planners could not see the obvious advantages of combining a nuclear weapons program with a civil one that would have made us almost energy self-sufficient, saved us precious foreign exchange while also having the potential to provide nuclear fuel to other foreign civil nuclear programs (witness UAE - it will import Uranium for its proposed 7 reactors - they could have purchased that from us!! - also check out Uranium ore and fuel spot prices - not a bad revenue stream!!).

But Alas - such is our country - blessed with abundant resources, unmatched skill and unflinching resolve....but led by close minded ppl!!

Sajjad May 29, 2013 04:07pm

Like it or not, nuclear is actually the most eficient way of generating power. In the situation Pakistan is in, use of renewable energy is good to have in mind but you need nuclear to get you out of the hole. individuals using renewables is a great idea but not at the national level.

Adnan Latif May 29, 2013 04:10pm

@Khawar T khyam: Panel manufacturing is a hi-tech business and requires capital investment of hundreds of millions of dollars. We do not have any hi-tech business in Pakistan on a such a large scale. Chinese companies involved in this business are vertically integrated huge scale companies. These companies start from manufacturing their own silicon ingots, to solar wafers to solar panels. A Pakistani company is involved in local assembly of panels, however it imports all the parts and local input is minimal. It seems from the point of view of business a disastrous decision to get involved into this business in Pakistan.

Kamal Gupta May 29, 2013 05:33pm


Japan does not have any oil, gas or coal and wants to reduce dependence upon unreliable suppliers for this crucial need. Hence they chose nuclear. Their hydroelectric potential is also limited.

Pakistan has a lot of bio-husk. This can not be the main source of energy but can still be substantial. Energy production can also be supplemented with two kinds of solar plants - micro PV plants meeting local area needs (saves on building transmission lines as well) and mega solar PV plants in your vast desert and infertile land tracts, plus as one reader has already mentioned, as a canopy over canals the way the Indian state of Gujarat has done (saves a lot of water evaporation from canals as well).

I am not aware of the quality of lignite in Pakistan, but India does use it to generate power. The concerned company is Neyveli Lignite Corp Ltd in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. However, thermal power needs a lot of water to generate steam, and that can be an issue as well.

I have seen reports of a Saudi grant of $15 billion over 3 years. Is that an open ended grant or is it for buying furnace oil from them?

Furnace oil can also be used to run gas turbines, with the exhaust heat being used to generate steam to run a downstream stem turbine, thus capturing 60% or more of the fuel's theoretical energy. Gas turbine plants can be up and running within a year, at least the first stage, and the entire combined cycle plant can be running within 18- 24 months. I am sure Pakistan has the project management skills to do this. This could lead to Pakistan making, or at least assembling, gas turbines in the country, like Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd does in India at Hyderabad and Haridwar.

raja hindustani May 29, 2013 06:16pm

India has made decent progress in Solar Energy in recent years. Gujarat is best example which has made solar parks and gujarat alone contribute almost 70% of total solar energy production in India. Pakistan can learn know-how from India. Moreover, there are dozen Indian companies manufactures solar cells. Time now to invest more on trade between India-Pakistan

Shakeel May 29, 2013 06:19pm

The price of solar energy kits has fallen 80% in the last 4 years. It continues to fall. Renewable energy is getting cheaper and increasingly effective at the same time. Carbon based fuel sources are the easiest to supply but require a constant fiscal input. Once you pay for a solar panel, it'll be 10-20 years before you need to replace it (depending on the quality of the product).

Successive governments of Pakistan have proven themselves to be failures. I pessimistically don't expect much better from the new one. The real success story in Pakistan is it's people and their will to survive. The awam has adapted to ever worsening conditions and not only survived but in many cases thrived. They did that through their own efforts, often facing hindrance from government rather than support.

It is the people again that must make the right choices for power generation. None of us can power a city, but we can power our own homes. Those who can afford to do so should invest in renewable energy sources to power their own homes, at least partially.

Steppenwolf May 29, 2013 06:23pm

The problem is not the generation of power but rather the corruption and the mafia that is the government.

Osman May 29, 2013 06:30pm


I had researched extensively and found relatively cheap solar power alternatives available in Australia including selling back excess power to the Grid.

My only question is: while solar panels are cheaper now and carry 25 yr warranties, what is the cost of and average life of batteries that these solar panels charge?

Osman May 29, 2013 06:42pm

@Numaan Ahmad: 500MW for $280Million in Gujrat cannot be correct - please check your facts again. UAE's $3.5Bn solar power project will produce 1,000MW of power, so 10,000MW production would need at least US$35Billion (not $5.6Bn)!

I am in 100% agreement with you that we MUST NOT take $15Bn in oil from Saudi to burn it away for short term political objectives.

Anon May 29, 2013 07:31pm

Solar panels are dirt cheap and 1$/Watt seems lucrative when it comes to the price of electricity but the problem is it doesn't end there. To properly use solar generated power you need expensive batteries to store the energy which can move the cost upto 5$ a watt. So the solar power is not a feasible option, we need to build more dams and perhaps civil nuclear technology.

Syed Asghar Raza Gardezi May 29, 2013 09:28pm

I am interested in solar panels for electricity for my Home in Lahore and at FARMS (RAZA FARMS) in kabirwala District Kanewal.I have two turbines with the 30 HP power and depth of 400ft each>There is no electricity.It averages 4-6 hours in a day.Can anybody help me in this regards to shift to solar energy.

Aly Ercelan May 29, 2013 10:22pm

no dams please

Imran May 29, 2013 10:47pm

A) Divide the current power among provinces, generation and collection. B) Let 50% of new power generation come from provinces and cities by law---- instead of federal. C) Build Solar parks like in Spain, California, UAE on provincial levels with joint ventures D) Federal govt build dams and nuclear stations with help of china, issue treasury notes. E) Check and punish power theft with jail time.

Problem Solved.

R.Kannan May 29, 2013 10:54pm

Sorry to disappoint but the writer ignores some basic facts. All renewable sources require some nature dependent factor - wind or water or sun - preventing them from being able to produce at full capacity all year round. Eg the Plant load factor in wind turbines rarely exceed 25%. This means a 1 MW wind mill would produce an average of around 0.25 MW even though the system is designed for 1 MW as a peak output. Thermal - be it solid fuel or gas or oil or even nuclear- can produce at peak capacity for about 8000 hr in a year - the remaining hours being the downtime for maintenance. As a result, any energy design mix must incorporate renewables as a fluctuating and secondary energy source and use non renewables as the primary energy source.

Many well intentioned writers are either ignorant about this basic issue or they chose to ignore this vital factor. This makes it possible to write articles but does little to find a practical solution to the problem.

amirkhan12010 May 30, 2013 03:55am

@R.Kanna it will help poeple if put solar panel in there roof it will help big time specialy in summer when load shedding its on peak here in america poeple they have yhere regular electricity and they solar panel on there roof it help them with less electric bill

Kamal Khan May 30, 2013 06:56am

@Syed Asghar Raza Gardezi:

Dear Sir, 30Hp means 22380 Watts ( 30 x 746 ). Some time back I had checked up with a Lahore backed company and it had given me a price of Rs 20 per Watt. So you can calcualate the figure yourself by multiplying the watt figure 22380 with 20. I am sure the figure shoule be lower than that now. But keep in mind, it was the price for panels, batteries, charge controllers, wiring etc.... all inclusive. The only differene would be what type of panels do you want to use, I mean quality of the panels. I hope it gives you a rough idea please.

Raza May 30, 2013 07:35am

I ve actually tried to bring solar technology to Pakistan but unfortunately the corruption in previous govt stoped us doing that. The plan was to built personalized solar station in each city and have local govt to run it. It would have created tons of employment in solar sector and also get rid of energy crisis created by corrupt political leaders. In my opinion solar energy is the way to solve our energy crisis.

VikasM May 30, 2013 09:17am

@Adnan Latif: It is always good to have real examples from the real world, substantiated with numbers. BTW, have you measured the savings in terms of your monthly electricity bills - how big is that figure? Once commercial establishments start using ecofriendly energy, the common man will find more reason in doing the same.

shabbzz May 30, 2013 11:28am

@Kamal Gupta:

Absoultely well said Mr. Gupta. You have a very viable solution on a micro level. Local investment and local return on investment. If we can get few villages/small towns like this, it will definately take load off main Grid

Capricorn May 30, 2013 11:43am

You can always go back to living in caves. Like stone age.

Capricorn May 30, 2013 11:45am

You can always go back to living in caves. Just like stone age.

hamad May 30, 2013 12:47pm

Entire North and South Pakistan could have wind mill. Then we have rivers flowing we could have turbine installed just like Nelaam valley in azad kashmir which is under construction for ten years now when completed will produce 1500 MW. North till south we could have such turbines installed and with the flow of river electricity could be produced.

samad May 30, 2013 01:32pm

@Syed Asghar Raza Gardezi: Raza please provide your email address and ill have someone get in touch with you right away to explore a solution.

akram May 30, 2013 03:22pm

@Khawar T khyam:

how to make your own solar panels at home;

Pakistan could learn if the maulvis stopped blocking youtube!

Ali S May 30, 2013 04:04pm

In Canada, they use garbage as biofuel for incinerators to power 70,000 homes (the power consumption of Canadian household is significantly more than that of a Pakistani one) in southern Ontario alone. Why can't we come up with something along those lines, at least for urban areas? It will be a double whammy - takes care of the garbage that's piled up along the streets, and provides energy locally.

Wind power or even gobar gas from cowdung (which is used extensively in India) could be utilized for powering rural areas, especially in Punjab where there's plenty of farmland.

Sanjay May 30, 2013 04:21pm

@rich05: Not in the last 500 years, yes. But if you went back before that there is plenty of evidence of discovery and creativity in Persia, Egypt and Turkey.

Yawar May 30, 2013 04:29pm

The best option for Pakistan is hydro for baseload and solar as additional load.

The problem with large nuclear reactors in a country like Pakistan would be high capital cost ($5 billion) and safety. Also, since most areas of Pakistan are earthquake prone, the cost would go up significantly. Another problem with nuclear power is that it is not very efficient, especially in hot climates. Clearly hydro has environmental consequences such as loss of land. But it is the best option for providing base load. But for hydro, we will have to become selfless and think of the country rather than ourselves. As time goes on renewables are getting cheaper and cheaper. Clearly, renewables is another area where Pakistan should invest.

Taimur May 30, 2013 05:15pm

Build 10 more Mangla Dams , even then it will not make any difference if you will not overcome corruption. Pay your ( individuals,companies, government sector ) bills honestly and you will get rid of circular debt and load shedding

Deep May 30, 2013 05:22pm

Give MFN status to india,and import electricity from india ...........simple solution

Raj May 30, 2013 06:19pm

@Aly Ercelan: Yes, damn the dams! But water is running out too if Pakistan does not make peace with India for the good of all.

Khawar T khyam May 30, 2013 09:09pm

@Tony Abidi: Hi Tony, As I said that I am not an expert on Solar Energy. But I know that where there is will there is way. One way is that some big Pakistani investor should buy some bankrupt unit of solar panel manufacturing unit and then try to bring that technology to Pakistan. Secondly with the help of some University you can give them a project and local investor should avail there expertise. Solar panel manufacturing is not a restricted science. In my opinion if Govt of Pakistan will give liberal incentives to investors and improve law and order in the country, definitely there are lot of people who are ready to invest in this sector.

Khawar T khyam May 30, 2013 09:19pm

@Adnan Latif: What ever you are saying is right. But we have to start it from some where. This is a very old discussion. I had met with one of the top investor of Pakistan. His answer was I can make more money in importing goods and secondly all the technology upgrade is not my cup of tea. I cannot keep up with the new advancement in science. But Mr Adnan just to break this vicious cycle we have to do and live with our own manufacturing. Ultimately we will start improving the quality of our goods. I do not accept that people of Pakistan are not innovative. It is just a matter of starting some thing new.

Burhan May 30, 2013 09:42pm

@Deep: If only we put our act together we can export to India.

Burhan May 30, 2013 09:58pm

What award winning she doesn't have her figures right. Madam go and do your research right. Don't swallow Mr. Alauddin's words as gospel truth.

Numaan Ahmad May 30, 2013 10:06pm

@Osman: If you google Charanka Solar Park, the one in Gujarat, many articles put the cost at $280m, hence the imaginative cost of $5.6bn for 10,000mw. The major cost isn't the solar panels but the land price, which in the UAE is substantially more. A Times of India article said the land prices 1.5km from the Gujarat solar park shot up from 25,000 INR to 6 lakhs per acre once the project began. Incoming liquid metal battery technology makes energy storage on a large level very possible.

Khawar T khyam May 30, 2013 10:53pm

@akram: What I was talking about was to install the solar panels on commercial based. Most of the population in Pakistan is illiterate. They are easy going. If some one can give them ready made solution then they will accept it. Like advertisement for 20000 rupees you can have solar panels installed for 2 fan and 2 light bulbs. I am sure there are investors who are ready for this kind of promotion. This matter should be implemented on SOS basis.

amd May 30, 2013 11:40pm

@Sajjad: Yes,it is reliable & continuous

amd May 30, 2013 11:43pm

@Ahmed : one should not always blame politicians & cry corruption,corruption,it is very negative

Asad Khan May 30, 2013 11:58pm

Where is the government in all this? What is it doing in encouraging the role of renewables when it has failed to deliver reliable power to the masses due to it's failed and adhoc policies over the last 30 years. The least it can do is to encourage the use of solar by atleast removing the onerous taxes on any imports tied to this technology thereby bringing the costs down and letting the consumers take over.

Asad Khan May 31, 2013 12:03am

@Hasan Hasni: In a country where the government has failed in its responsibility to provide reliable power to its citizens, the best it can do is to get out of the way and let people take over. Where do you think the traditional power technology comes from and how much foreign exchange it costs? Also where do you think the profits from the Pakistani public are going - overseas in the forms of foreign exchange. Solar technology on the other hand is free for life.

Shahid May 31, 2013 12:25am

Having solar pannels on roof tops are only an affordable option here in Denmark because national grid purchases the surplus energy from you and then sell you back in the night hours. It makes it possible to avoid storage facilities (batteries) which cost a lot and require replacement every 3rd year. Problem with Pakistan is that the privat investors, mainly the pakistanies abroad, want to invest in energy but the corruption and accumulation of recieveables from the government make everything impossible.

Irfan Roy May 31, 2013 02:43am

I heard on Geo that the Nawaz Sharif Governement is making some regulatory changes and is also planning to launch some short term and medium terms projects to end the load shedding in Pakistan. It is therefore important that in the new energy policy solar energy should be given a high priority. As Pakistan is richly blessed with sunshine unlike the UK. One way would be to give people loans to install solar cells. The money of the loan could be deducted from the feed in tariff (people should be given incentive that if they produce more energy using solar panels they should put it back in the grid). Relying on solar energy will be cheaper in the long run and people will be saved from pollution which can result if Pakistan substitutes furnace oil with coal

Bob May 31, 2013 03:07am

@amd: Why would hard earning overseas Pakistanis invest in a corrupt country? It is negative but its the truth.

Yawar May 31, 2013 06:23am

@Raza: Nuclear is the most inefficient option because you need to stay in the saturated zone of the steam cycle. Unlike coal and gas and oil where you can go into the unsaturated zone (higher temperatures). And in fact, the hotter it is outside, the less efficient nuclear is. The capacity factor (percentage of time plant operates in a year) can be high but only after sufficient experience is gained in running such highly complex power plants. Plus it takes many years to design, construct and test such plants. That does not mean we should forget about it because it is good for base load. But it cannot be a short-term fix. Hydro is the cheapest and will always be the cheapest. We just need to remove the politics and provincialism from it.

Fazal Karim May 31, 2013 06:35am

A very good article from Rina Saeed Khan. All the political parties in Pakistan should seriously start working on renewable energy. Pakistan has abondon sun and very good wind corridor. Actual installation work should not be done by government because it has got very poor record of efficiency and maintenance. Private companies local as well as foreign should be encouraged to invest in these ventures. For immediate relief fro load shedding following measures should be taken on war footing. 1. Electricity theft should be stoped by efficient management and harsh penalties. 2. Air conditioners consume 5000 MW. There use should be stopped by declaring their use illigal except in Operation halls and ICUs. 3. Terraces of houses be painted white or white glazed ceramic tiles be fixed. This bring good reief to residents and will to great extent save energy. In USA government provide loans to house owners for such works.

abbas May 31, 2013 11:57am

Solar is by far the most expensive way of producing electricity. For Pakistan teh cheapest way to produce electricity is Hydro, Nuclear, Natural gas, coal, wind and then solar in this order. It costs around 150USD to produce one megaWatt hour of electricity via solar energy. Unless there is a big breakthrough in photovoltic cell, its simply not fesible for pakistan. coal and hydro is the way for pakistan to go.