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KARACHI: A number of private investors participating in an international wind energy summit at a hotel here on Wednesday questioned the federal government’s policy of heavy reliance on imported fuels, though global and regional trends had shown a major uptake in various forms of renewable energy as a commercial alternative to fossil-fuel based energy generation.

Growth in the wind energy sector, they said, had been halted owing to tariff-related issues, cumbersome procedures for project approvals and lack of infrastructural development in grid connectivity.

The programme was organised by Energy Update, a monthly magazine, in collaboration with the provincial Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB).

‘Future growth of economy lies in renewable energy’

The event’s highlight was the speech by Rolf Michael Hay Pereira Holmboe, the Danish Ambassador to Pakistan, who spoke about his country’s experience with renewable energy.

“If a small country [like] Denmark can achieve up to 56 per cent of its power generation through renewable resources and emerge as a world leader in wind power energy, Pakistan can also do so provided that there is a strong political will,” he said.

Recalling how his country made a policy decision on renewable energy, he told the audience that it happened in the 1970s when the country was facing an oil crisis. With consistent government policies over the years, Denmark now planned to achieve the target of making its entire energy consumption carbon-free by 2050.

“We are actively pursuing renewable means and using hybrid methods to maximise energy generation through wind, solar power and waste-to-energy methods,” he said.

He regretted that Pakistan, despite having huge potential in renewable energy, particularly in Sindh and Balochistan, had made little progress.

“I have learnt that Pakistan is currently producing just 1.5 per cent of its total generated electricity through renewable means. It’s quite a dismal figure given the favourable conditions the country has,” he said.

Offshore plants along Karachi coast

The Pakistani government, he said, had to make a choice whether to continue using expensive conventional fuels for power generation or switch to cheaper, cleaner and sustainable means for energy generation.

Citing examples of countries such as India and China making huge progress in renewable energy, he said: “The future growth of economy lies in renewable energy, which is not only environmentally safe but reliable, cheaper and competitive.”

Answering a question about Pakistan’s investment in coal-based projects, he said he felt that the reliance should be on renewable energy as much as possible while filling the gaps in production through other means.

Suggesting installation of offshore wind power projects near the Karachi coast similar to experiments currently being done by many northern European countries, he said Denmark was willing to assist Pakistan to more effectively explore and utilise its potential for power generation through renewable means.

On Sindh government’s efforts, Rashid Hussain Kazi, special secretary of the Sindh government’s energy department, said the Gharo-Jhimpir wind corridor was at present producing 788MW while a matching volume of renewable energy production would be achieved by next year on the basis of new projects being installed in the same wind corridor.

“The government has been pursuing a balanced energy policy in order to utilise both conventional and alternative sources of power production,” he said.

Zafar Sobani, a senior energy sector expert, said it was high time that Pakistan achieved a minimum of five per cent of its power generation on the basis of alternative means of electricity that had been the target set in the renewable energy policy adopted by the government more than a decade back.

During the question-answer session, a number of participants expressed their disappointment over delays new projects had to face due to abrupt changes in traffic policy and other formalities. Some of them accused the government of having vested interests as, they pointed out, was demonstrated by its preference of LNG and coal projects over renewable energy initiatives.

Replying to some of these concerns, Sajjad M. Qureshi, senior adviser to the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority on tariff, tried to justify the introduction of competitive bidding in determining tariff three years back but criticised the provincial governments and other related departments for the delay in processing project documents.

Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah highlighted the challenges the provincial government was facing in making renewable power projects operational.

“Provinces should be free to handle affairs related to tariff, transmission and distribution of electricity being generated by projects developed in their respective jurisdictions,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2017