THE World Bank has shown Pakistan the way forward in the energy sector by approving $450m to support the country’s transition from expensive fossil fuels to affordable, renewable energy resources so that it can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Pakistan must use this opportunity as a policy impetus to encourage renewable, alternative energy schemes, and not just limit it to a few projects. The World Bank financing has been approved for hydropower and solar energy generation schemes in KP, which will shift the national energy mix to clean domestic resources. As stated by the bank’s country director, the project will support Pakistan’s goal to become a low-carbon, renewable energy-reliant economy by 2030 and target reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. This is in line with the international shift towards environment-friendly energy sources. The focus on indigenous resources would also contribute to the economic development of communities living near hydropower and solar projects by revitalising infrastructure, creating jobs and supporting the development of tourism in those areas. Now it is for the government to use the bank’s financing to scale up clean energy schemes in the rest of the country.
Sadly, the country’s energy policymakers do not seem to have the capacity to plan beyond conventional dirty energy sources — coal, oil and gas. They seem to be out of touch with ongoing power technology developments and the availability of cheap renewable energy storage solutions, which are expected to change the scenario globally in the next several years. The Indicative Generation Capacity Expansion Plan, 2047, prepared by the NTDC, for example, focuses on costly generation-based coal and RLNG, while ignoring power technology that is set to dominate beyond 2030. The plan includes additions of renewables to meet the targets of the alternative energy policy, 2030, but neglects renewable resources in the overall energy mix beyond that. The overall contribution of renewables to the country’s power capacity drops from 31pc in 2030 to 23pc in 2047, according to the IGCEP. A critique of the plan by an Australian organisation points to the “lack of renewable energy focus … despite the fact that Pakistan has excellent renewable energy resources and … wind and solar — which are already the cheapest source of new power generation in Pakistan — will be even cheaper throughout the 2030s and 2040s”. Unless we cut our reliance on expensive fossil fuels and move towards renewable energy, the goals of sustainability and affordability cannot be met.
Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2020