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LAHORE: The federal government's efforts to promote renewable energy (RE) are limited to lip-service over the last two years as thermal power lobby has captured the energy establishment to block the arrival of cheap renewable power, said reliable sources from the Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO).

"Nothing concrete can take place during the tenure of present government so far," they added. It may be noted that shares in electricity generation are comprised of natural gas 33.6 percent, oil, 32.1 percent, coal, 0.2 percent, hydropower 26.1 percent, nuclear 5.7 percent, and renewable energy only 2.2 percent.

According to the sources, some elements having vested interests are dominant at policy level, not letting the government take a decision contrary to their benefits. The sources said the poor level of commitment from the government, the overlapping management functions of the energy sector, and the lack of financial capacity and technical awareness are key barriers toward developing RE-based projects in Pakistan, they said.

The RE policy of 2006 envisages adding 10,000MW of electricity from RE resources by 2030. However, the estimated potential of RE is far greater than 10,000 MW, they said. The solar energy potential of Pakistan is estimated to be 2,900,000 megawatts while the installed capacity is not more than 200 megawatt. Similarly, the hydro energy potential of Pakistan is estimated to be 60,000 megawatts while the installed capacity is not more than 6556 megawatt. The biomass energy potential of Pakistan is estimated to be 5000 megawatts while the installed capacity is not more than 35 megawatt, followed by wind energy potential of 34,600 megawatts with an installed capacity of 308 megawatts and finally the geothermal energy, carrying potential of 100,000 megawatts with zero installed capacity in the country.

According to the sources, Pakistan has plentiful solar energy throughout the year and across the country. The solar energy potential can be exploited extensively to meet the energy demand. With the potential of solar energy duly taken into consideration, and with an annual mean sunlight duration of 8-8.5 h a day, it is projected that around 40,000 villages in the country can be provided with electricity.

Geographically, they said, Pakistan receives the highest solar radiation in the region with more than 300 sunlight days with around 1800-2200 kWh/m2 of annual radiation at a 26-28 C average annual temperature, which can produce electricity of 5.5-6 kWh/m2/day.

The sources added that the exploitable solar resources are estimated to be greater than 50,000 MW, with more than 2500 hours of sunlight in a year. There is an excellent potential for deploying solar energy projects in Balochistan and Sindh, where the sun shines for 7-8 hours a day, approximately 2300-2700 h/annum.

According to the sources, due to a lack of interest and commitment of concerned government authorities, the development of RE resources including solar energy for generating electricity is at very early stages despite outstanding geographical conditions.

In the meantime, with the penetration of solar-based technology in the market, various electricity consumers in both rural and urban areas have installed standalone photovoltaic units of 100-500 Watt for power generation. However, these individual efforts can be short-lived with an operational maintenance requirement, the availability of spares, and other challenges.

The only significant effort, in this regard, was made by the PML-N government related to the harnessing of solar energy is the development of the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Park which is underway in the Bahawalpur district of Punjab. The total installed capacity of this solar project will be 1000MW.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020