SINDH Industry Minister Younus Dagha’s recent call for the ‘aggressive’ use of coal in the country’s energy mix — given its low cost — is problematic on several counts. Although affordability is an important consideration for a financially strapped country like Pakistan, reliance on coal would be worrisome given the environmental implications. Coal is considered the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. When burned, it produces sulphuric acid and nitric acid which cause acid rain and other forms of pollution. Coal also produces the least energy for every CO2 molecule it emits into the atmosphere, thus enhancing the greenhouse effect and leading to global warming. Even if we consider Mr Dagha’s argument that after the Ukraine war, Europe, China and the US increased their coal dependence, comparing Pakistan’s carbon footprint to larger nations can be a misleading premise. Just because our footprint is ‘miniscule’ in comparison, it shouldn’t give us a free pass to increase it further. And while it is easy to point out that growing economies such as India and China are heavy coal users, it must also be considered they are actively exploring and investing in renewable energy to shed their reliance on coal. Pakistan should focus on harnessing the vast potential of its own renewable resources.
It is heartening to note that according to the 10-year Indicative Generation Capacity Expansion Plan, the country aims to produce 60pc of electricity through non-fossil fuels by 2030. However, maximising the use of coal for the remaining 40pc would nullify these very efforts. Given our potential in hydel, wind and solar energy — with hydel already contributing 37.6pc to the energy mix according to August data — these indigenous, renewable sources should be further explored and optimised. While coal might offer a temporary economic respite, the environmental repercussions are far-reaching and long-term. Pakistan must carve out an energy strategy that not only caters to its immediate needs but also ensures a green and sustainable future. Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2023