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As we head into election mode, deciphering party manifestos is crucial to understand potential leaders’ priorities and strategies. While manifestos address political, economic, and security concerns, what cannot and should not be ignored is Pakistan’s energy landscape.

The next government will have to deal with Pakistan’s circular debt in the power sector which stands at over a staggering Rs2,500 billion (2023).

According to the Indicative Generation Capacity Expansion Plan (IGCEP), Pakistan’s electricity consumption is projected to increase by 228 TWh per year (39 GW peak) by 2031.

To address this growing demand, Pakistan aims to construct and integrate approximately 30 GW of new power plants into the national grid over the next decade. But will they be able to?

The manifestos of major parties, including PPP, PTI, and PML-N, look to provide insights into their understanding of the pressing energy crisis.

Not all manifestos are created equals, some appear more comprehensive than others, yet all parties acknowledge the need to address energy-related challenges, from petrol price hikes to electricity shortages and transmission issues.

Other parties like MQM, JUI-F, JIT, ANP, and TLP, with less precise manifestos, seem conscious of their limited federal power prospects, focusing primarily on their respective regions and not deep diving into issues like energy which can be dealt with in smaller portions, too.

Diving into the energy strategies outlined in the manifestos, the PPP strongly emphasises climate resilience, sustainable development, and foreign policy. Inclusive growth, green job creation, and utilising indigenous sources and renewables are mentioned but not explored in detail.

None of the manifestos addresses Pakistan’s need to transition to renewable energy in the coming decade or tap into the country’s abundant potential for renewable energy sources which can provide much more than the estimated power

The party still aims to research to understand the potential of wind energy, a futile task given a lot of data exists on the potential of wind and solar farms in Sindh. PPP commits to offering free solar-generated electricity to the poorest households while addressing climate crises, inflation, unemployment, and poverty.

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Their manifesto discusses at length the ‘Green New Deal’, addressing clean energy transition, economic challenges, and climate resilience, advocating for international climate justice, and proposing financial strategies to support sustainable development.

Interestingly, CPEC and the Pak-Iran gas line are mentioned in passing, and the respective countries are missing in the foreign policy.

The manifesto also lacks data, in-depth analysis and a to-do will for energy.

The PTI manifesto outlines a robust energy plan focused on indigenous solutions, climate justice, and sector-wide reforms.

Prioritising hydroelectric and renewable sources, reducing fossil fuel dependency by 20% within the next decade, financing renewable energy through green bonds, and taxing heavy polluters are key initiatives. The PTI’s emphasis on renegotiating IPP agreements, addressing circular debt, and restructuring the legal framework showcases a commitment to sustainability.

Their plan also highlights strategies for oil and gas exploration, power sector development, and promoting green technologies to ensure competitiveness and efficiency.

While PTI’s manifesto is detailed in many aspects and provides depth, it does not have a clear roadmap or commitment to clean energy transition or powering rural areas.

Imran Khan, PTI’s founding chairman, pledged to exit coal power during his previous government. Do these commitments still hold, considering PTI is the sole party addressing fossil fuel reduction in alignment with global net-zero goals?

The PML-N agenda, historically inclined regional growth, has showcased structural changes to power Pakistan; its manifesto encompasses trade agreements, economic performance, and strategic achievements.

In the power sector, the PML-N emphasises their substantial achievements in electricity generation capacity, solar initiatives, and a shift to electric vehicles. Their focus on reforms in the transmission, distribution, storage, and privatization of DISCOS outlines a comprehensive approach to ensuring a sustainable future.

Environmental and climate change initiatives, including SDGs, ‘Recharge Pakistan’, and the ‘Clean Green Pakistan Movement’, reflect a commitment to addressing broader sustainability issues.

The PML-N manifesto is the only paper which outlines a roadmap with data on how they are planning to reduce the electricity bill, and how much renewable energy will be incorporated into the national grid, increasing total RE share to 10% (namely 6,000MW of solar energy) - even though past plans of 10GW have not yet materialised.

To critically analyse the manifestos through a clean energy perspective – the prioritisation given to indigenous fossil fuels, particularly Thar coal over renewables – raises concerns amid Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change.

Thar coal, despite its potential benefits, comes with environmental, social, and perception baggage, necessitating careful consideration of its role in Pakistan’s energy landscape.

According to the NEPRA State of Industry report 2023, out of the total 42,362 MW installed capacity, the current Renewable Energy capacity of Pakistan is 2,617 MW (6.2%) (1,838 wind, 530 solar, 249 bagasse) and ARE policy targets renewable energy to be a share of 30% by 2030.

None of the manifestos addresses Pakistan’s need to transition to renewable energy in the coming decade or tap into the country’s abundant potential for renewable energy sources which can provide much more than the estimated power.

Whoever comes into power will have to navigate through the IMF programme, hindering these manifestos and the promises they make as impractical and short-lived without the programs’ support.

Similarly, policies need to align with the global tripling goal set at COP28, and none of the manifestos have delved into the financial aspects flowing in for renewable energy.

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Pakistan should also aim for the global climate finance pool of over $1.3 trillion, which was established due to Pakistan’s critical role in COP27.

While the manifestos make it clear that whoever comes into power would like to tap into this pool, they would need to mobilise more funds to bridge the gap. The next government has huge tasks to deal with on all fronts – be it security, politics, energy, or the most pressing issue of all climate change.

The coming few days will decide Pakistan’s future and these manifestos help voters make their decisions.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Annam Lodhi

The writer is Associate (Communications Specialist) at Renewables First, an energy transition think-tank in Islamabad. She can be reached at [email protected]

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