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Power Division is reported to have finalised the draft Renewable Energy Policy 2019 to be presented to the Federal Cabinet for approval, envisaging 25 percent of total generation capacity from Alternative and Renewable Energy Technologies (ARET) by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030.
With this ARET target, as envisaged by the government, together with over 30 percent hydel, the government aims to achieve the most environmental-friendly and affordable electricity mix compared to the heavy mix of imported fossil fuels of the past.
The policy covers projects in the public and private sector; or public-private partnership will be implemented with alternative and renewable energy technologies for producing power whether for sale to a public utility or for private sale to a consumer if the producer wishes to avail any or all incentives available in this policy.
The technologies covered under this policy are both conventional renewable energy including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, as well as alternative technologies like biogas, syngas, Waste to Energy (WtE), storage systems, ocean/tidal waves, as well as all kinds of hybrids. However, hydel projects are reported not to be covered under this policy. In addition, any proprietary technology, or new technology to be developed during the applicability of the ARE policy, would also fall under its ambit.
The proposed Renewable Energy Policy 2019 and the generation targets therein set appear highly ambitious if not unrealistic if one fairly examines Pakistan's progress so far in renewable energy introduction in the country, the performance of our institutions in the energy sector, the current investment climate and fiscal and governance issues in the sector.
Pakistan so far has only 5 percent of its total generation from renewable power - mainly from wind, a bit from solar and a bit from bagasse as captive power plants at sugar mills. Reportedly, the 1000MW Quaid-e-Azam Solar plant set up by the Punjab government in the deserts of Cholistan has not delivered anywhere near the rated output.
Let us censure a bit the conduct and delivery of the country's institutions established to mobilise alternate energy in the country.
Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) is the sole representative agency of the Federal Government that was established in May 2003 with the main objective to facilitate, promote and encourage development of renewable energy in Pakistan and with a mission to introduce Alternative and Renewable Energies (AREs) at an accelerated rate. The administrative control of AEDB was transferred to Ministry of Water and Power in 2006. The Government of Pakistan has inter alia mandated AEDB to:
* Implement policies, programs and projects through private sector in the field of ARE;
* Assist and facilitate development and generation of ARE to achieve sustainable economic growth;
* Encourage transfer of technology & develop indigenous manufacturing base for ARE Technology;
* Promote provision of energy services that are based on ARE resources; and undertake ARE projects on commercial scale (the AEDB Act 2010).
AEDB, which is in existence for over 15 years has not done much on any of the above items of the said mandate.
The motivation of Pakistan Power Infrastructure Board (PPIB) has always been focused on thermal power plants with little or no inclination to usher in the much-needed ARET in line with global trends and success in the field nor were the past governments interested in it.
The tariffs announced by NEPRA, specially for wind and solar, were erratic. In its first policy it offered attractive tariffs for wind farms which ushered in a stream of investors. In its next policy it offered tariffs not considered attractive by the investors and investment in the sector therefore nosedived.
Today, nearly whole of Scandinavia is on wind and waste to energy. Europe is catching up. Even the Middle East with abundance of oil resources is going for solar energy by exploiting the abundance of sun power.
India is one of the countries with largest production of energy from renewable sources. In the electricity sector, renewable energy accounts for 34.6 percent of the total installed power capacity. Large hydro installed capacity was 45.399GW as of 30 June 2019, contributing to 13 percent of the total power capacity. The remaining renewable energy sources accounted for 22 percent of the total installed power capacity (80.467GW) as of 30 June 2019.
Wind power capacity was 36,625MW as of 31 March 2019, making India the fourth-largest wind power producer in the world. The country has a strong manufacturing base in wind power with 20 manufactures of 53 different wind turbine models of international quality. Moreover, it has been successfully exporting wind turbine to Europe, the United States and other countries.
The government's target of installing 20GW of solar power by 2022 was achieved four years ahead of schedule in January 2018, through both solar parks as well as roof-top solar panels. India has set a new target of achieving 100GW of solar power by 2022. Four of the top seven largest solar parks worldwide are in India including the second-largest solar park in the world at Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, with a capacity of 1000MW. The world's largest solar power plant Bhadla Solar Park is being constructed in Rajasthan with a capacity of 2255MW.
Pakistan can achieve all of this if we can manage to put our act together.
Up to now, Pakistan's focus has been on wind farms near Karachi only. There are many more feasible locations available to be exploited.
After disappointment at Quaid-e-Azam Solar energy project, no other initiatives has been undertaken in relation to mega solar plants, although there exists tremendous potential in the field.
Pakistan produces one of the world's largest waste. But, nearly all of this is used for land filling, burned to ashes or scattered around the cities as garbage. All of it can be used to fuel 'Waste to Energy' - the technology of which is simpler and much of it can be indigenous.
Many countries are claiming carbon emissions credits under the global environment fund established for the purpose and utilising the earned amount to subsidize the tariffs in this segment of energy generation. Unfortunately, however, Pakistan, until now, has set up no mechanism to be part of global regime to register and trade its credits and avail benefits.
Many policies were tabled and circulated on the subject in the past also. But these policies were never implemented or enforced in an effective and meaningful manner. Success lies in Implementation and enforcement only. It is this area the government needs to work on.
(The writer is the former President of Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and industry)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019