[ISLAMABAD] Pakistan's vast renewable energy potential remains largely untapped for a mix of reasons, twin analyses show.
The analyses, to be published in the June 2012 issue of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, say exploiting Pakistan’s massive, unexploited renewable energy sources, particularly hydroelectric and solar, can help plug its widening energy deficit and improve livelihoods.
The studies focus on solar energy, particularly in the Thar and Cholistan deserts and also river waters, that could be channelled into small hydropower plants of up to 10 megawatt capacity.
Against a demand of 24,474 megawatts, the country’s power production capacity stood at 20,190 megawatts in 2009-2010.
The authors identified political instability, inadequate budgetary allocations, low investment in research and poor indigenisation of technology as being among roadblocks to exploiting renewable energy potential.
Pakistan's 6,595 megawatts of hydropower form about a third of its total energy mix and is set against a total potential of 100,000 megawatts, with 55,000 megawatts of it in identified sites, the studies said.
Environmental concerns and issues around resettlement and rehabilitation, land acquisition, lengthy approval procedures, inter-state issues and law and order problems were among factors inhibiting hydropower development.
The report on solar energy said although the source was abundant, with the country receiving 200-250 watts per square metre daily with an estimated potential of 2.9 million megawatts of solar power per annum, the country generates less than seven megawatts.
Solar energy was hampered by poor integration of techno-economic and socio-political aspects and inconsistent government policies, although it was ideal for the remote areas of Balochistan, Cholistan and the Thar desert where grid connectivity was difficult.
Solar energy applications identified included lighting, water pumps, desalination of water, agriculture and textile sector processes such as dyeing.
"Policies for small-scale decentralised power generation have been announced at different times, but inaction on decisions has hampered promotion of renewable energy in hydel or solar areas," said Gholamreza Zahedi, lead author of the studies.
Zahedi, who is associate professor at the chemical engineering department, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, told SciDev.Net that international donors were reluctant to fund large-scale renewable energy projects due to security concerns.
Attracting local investments in small- and medium-size renewable energy plans and local manufacturing of basic components seem potential viable solutions, Zahedi said.
Iftikar Ahmed, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Society for Education, Awareness, Research and Community Help, an Islamabad-based non-government organisation, said absence of a viable marketing strategy was another stumbling block.
"The Pakistan Council for Renewable Energy Technology has prepared indigenous small- and medium-level renewable energy systems for domestic small industry needs, but inadequate awareness and marketing programmes are hurting efforts," he said.
Naseer Ahmed, president of the Renewable and Alternative Energy Association of Pakistan, said solar energy systems were costly despite government incentives such as abolition of taxes for solar panels and related equipment.