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[ISLAMABAD] Pakistan can bridge 86 per cent of its estimated 38.36 terawatt-hour electricity shortfall by unlocking its wind and solar energy potential, says a new study.

The study comes as leading economists say Pakistan’s persisting energy crisis is holding back the country’s efforts to reduce poverty and meet sustainable development goals.

Published this month (December) in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, the study calculates wind and solar energy potential using weather-based modelling. At a spatial resolution of 14 square kilometres, researchers estimated wind power generation potential at 78.69 terawatt-hour and solar at 2.79 gigawatt-hour.

“Besides attracting investment in large-scale renewable energy projects, government could incentivise off-grid household and industry-scale small to medium renewable energy projects to help attain sustainable socio-economic development goals through enhanced energy access.”

Arif Allaudin, former head of the Pakistan Alternative Energy Development Board

The country would see electrical-load demand increasing to around 63,000 megawatts from the current 30,000 megawatts by 2020. Meanwhile, there is an immediate need to install around 39,177 megawatts to sustain socio-economic growth and employment, the study estimates.

Asad Ashfaq, lecturer at the Nottingham Trent University’s civil engineering department and lead author of the study, tells SciDev.Net that tapping Pakistan’s wind and solar power generation potential can boost the country’s industrial and agriculture sectors — the mainstays of the country’s economy.

However, tapping this wind and solar energy potential is difficult because of many factors. “Security situation, internal political turmoil, bureaucratic bottlenecks, corruption, mismanagement of the energy sector, inadequate indigenous financial resources and lack of foreign investment,” enumerates Muhammad Bilal Khan, renewable energy scientist at the US-Pakistan Centre for Advanced Studies in Energy, Islamabad.

“The ramifications on industrial and agriculture sectors, which account for over 70 per cent of the total export earnings and 39.77 per cent of total national GDP, are pronounced because these sectors often fail to meet export orders and thousands of industrial units in the country have closed down, leading to mass unemployment,” says Maha Rehman, public policy expert at the Centre for Economic Research Pakistan. Arif Allaudin, former head of the Pakistan Alternative Energy Development Board, agrees. He suggests that renewable energy can be tapped by “mobilising the indigenous private sector, removing tax barriers on renewable energy technology imports, motivating the banking sector to invest in small and medium renewable energy projects and making investment hassle-free for foreign investors”.

Besides attracting investment in large-scale renewable energy projects, government could incentivise off-grid household and industry-scale small to medium renewable energy projects to help attain sustainable socio-economic development goals through enhanced energy access,” Allaudin says.      
 
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Asia & Pacific desk.