A bright future?

Published August 27, 2013
How much longer will consumers have to suffer from electricity blackouts in Pakistan? — Reuters Photo
How much longer will consumers have to suffer from electricity blackouts in Pakistan? — Reuters Photo

Deep within the confines of Cattle Colony in Karachi, situated in the volatile neighbourhood of Landhi, a social and economic experiment is about to take place.

Work is already underway and financing is being secured for the Karachi Organic Energy Limited, for a unique experimentation that aims to turn an abundance of cow dung and other organic waste into electricity. This is one of the many alternate energy projects that are in progress in this energy-starved country.

Pakistan’s energy crisis has risen to epic proportions. Power outages can last more than fifteen hours a day. Domestic consumers suffer long summer heat waves, while the industry, dependent on gas and electricity, is left with idle machines, adversely affecting the already dire economic situation of the country.

The reason often cited is the decrease in gas reserves and the escalating prices of oil in the international market, which our power producing companies are so dependent on. In such a scenario, alternatives like KEOL are being looked into, less by the government and more by the self-help inspired private sector.

The KOEL, waste-to-energy facility, will convert approximately 4,200 tons per day of cattle waste from Landhi Cattle Colony and 700 tons per day of organic food waste to bio-gas which will be utilised for power generation at a facility with an installed capacity of up to 30 megawatt. Environmentally safe, cheap to produce and a by-product, it will result in more cleanliness in the filth-ridden confines and will also create jobs.

The energy crises, though affecting the urban and industrial outback of Pakistan, has had a worse affect in the rural areas of the country. With no end to its energy crises, which in particular is affecting its agricultural and industrial output, the province of Punjab is proactively looking for solutions.

According to Fiza Farhan, CEO Buksh Foundation, around 88 per cent of Punjab's agricultural tube wells run on diesel fuel, proving to be a major setback to farmers, as it inflates their expenses and cuts into their income. A solar tube well provides an immediate solution to the farmers and enhances the agriculture income by up to 36 per cent.

On the governmental level, Pakistan has been dabbling with solar and wind power projects, however, it is only recently that they have made major headlines. Late last year, President Asif Ali Zardari, inaugurated the FFCEL’s wind-powered project in Jhimpir, Thatta, a project that is expected to add more than 106 megawatts of electricity to the national grid.

The government hopes to add substantially to this number in the coming couple of years and is expected to add a further 1000-1200 MW from wind power projects by the year 2015. This plan is subject to ‘if land is allocated to the new projects’.

The present government, soon after taking power, made it clear that solving the energy issues plaguing the country was its primary concern. The new government is exploring alternate energy sources with serious intent. Presenting the government’s first budget, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said duties would be lifted on imports of small hybrid cars, solar and wind power equipment, and energy-saving devices like LED bulbs in order to encourage the use of alternative energy.

He said the procedure would be simplified for duty-free imports of solar and wind machinery and equipment. Energy-saving devices such as energy-efficient light bulbs and solar water pumps will also be exempted from duties. The provincial government of Punjab has already allocated 7.5 billion rupees to subsidize bio-gas and tube wells fitted with solar-powered pumps for small farmers.

According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan, the country’s electricity generation is highly dependent on imported oil, the bill for which adds up to around 14.5 billion dollars each year. The bulk of this oil is used for electricity generation. A new World Bank program is helping developing countries map their renewable energy potential in a new way that produces rich, nationwide data.

In its report, ‘Mapping the Renewable Energy Revolution’ it exemplifies Pakistan saying the country, ‘encapsulates the renewable energy challenge faced by many developing and emerging countries. Despite abundant renewable resources – including solar, wind, hydropower and biomass – very little of this potential has been utilised. At the same time, about a third of the country’s people do not have access to electricity. Pakistan has ambitious plans for solar and wind projects, and has developed a comprehensive policy framework for renewable energy, but projects on the ground remain few and far between.’

A governmental body does exist, the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB), which focuses on wind, solar, hydro, biogas, cogeneration, waste-to-energy and geothermal power generation, and it is in process of giving financial and fiscal incentives to both local and foreign investors. However, how soon these promises are turned into tangible results, has yet to be seen.

Lighting a million lives

Buksh Foundation (a private organisation) along with TERI India (The Energy and Resources Institute) has initiated the 'Lighting a Million Lives' project, with the aim that people would be able to enjoy the basic facilities of cost-effective clean, healthy and adequate light in their homes.

According to Fiza Farhan, CEO Buksh Foundation, about 43 per cent of people in Pakistan live without access to electricity. Approximately, 70 per cent of this under-served population lives in rural areas in approximately 50,000 villages which are completely detached from the national electricity grid. And this is not counting those who are living in daily extended blackouts of up to 18 hours per day.

Plans of Lighting a Million Lives are simple; provide a village that is without electricity rechargeable lamps on rent. They will be charged via mobile solar generators that can also run LED lights/fans. This project works by constructing a “recharging room” in the village that is connected with a solar-powered generator. This room houses rechargeable lamps which are charged throughout the day. Each lamp is then rented out from dusk till dawn for a nominal fee of a few rupees.

Under this project, 72 villages in the districts of Sahiwal, Mianwali, Lodhran, Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan, Bahawalpur and Chiniot have already been provided this facility, with 70 more in pipeline. It is planned to further reach out to Mardan, Khushab, Gujrat, Kasur and Bahawalnagar in the next six months.

Opinion

Editorial

Miftah’s misery
Updated 06 Jul, 2022

Miftah’s misery

It cannot be easy to be finance minister in times like these, with friend and foe alike gunning for you over difficult decisions.
Phone tapping
06 Jul, 2022

Phone tapping

IT is the season of audio leaks. No sooner does one ‘incriminating’ clip lose its shock value than another...
Transgender job quota
06 Jul, 2022

Transgender job quota

IN a society where transgender persons often face violence and abuse, the Sindh Assembly’s decision to reserve a...
Warming ties
05 Jul, 2022

Warming ties

BILATERAL ties with the US are clearly on the mend after an extensive rough patch under the PTI government. While ...
LNG emergency
Updated 05 Jul, 2022

LNG emergency

The problem is that Pakistan does not have sufficient cash at the moment to buy even a single LNG cargo at present prices.
The invisible half
05 Jul, 2022

The invisible half

WHAT better illustrates the Afghan Taliban’s misogynistic and mediaeval worldview than the fact that not a single...