A new long-term energy policy aims to provide at least five percent of the country’s total commercial energy supplies from clean renewable sources such as wind, solar and bio-waste by 2030.

At present, just 10 megawatts of the country’s daily commercial energy requirement of 11,000 MW, or less than 0.1 percent, is generated from wind and solar sources, according to Faiz Mohammad Bhutta, an executive member of the Renewable and Alternative Energy Association of Pakistan, a non-governmental organization.

Demand for energy is increasing with Pakistan’s rapidly growing population. The country currently produces fewer than 14,000 MW domestically, a shortfall of 5,000 MW compared to overall domestic and commercial needs.

The persistent power crisis has slowed economic activity and led to increased unemployment and poverty, as well as growing unrest in some cases as families suffer through hot summer temperatures without fans and air conditioners.

The government estimates that daily energy requirements in 2030 will be more than 160,000 MW, of which 110,000 MW will be needed for the commercial sector. The new policy calls for alternative and renewable sources to provide at least 5,500 MW.

Oil Running Out

The national oil and gas company estimates that Pakistan’s oil and gas supplies will be exhausted by 2025 and 2030, respectively. And while hydroelectric power now supplies about a quarter of the country’s power needs, that proportion is forecast to decline as energy demand soars and reduced rainfall linked to climate change lowers the flow in rivers.

The Asian Development Bank predicts that Pakistan’s annual oil import bill will reach $38 billion by 2015 from its current level of $14 billion, and experts fear that rising international oil prices will make electricity tariffs unaffordable for millions of poor households.

The new policy, drawn up by the Alternative Energy Development Board of Pakistan (AEDB) in consultation with the federal Ministry of Water and Power and other governmental and non-governmental bodies, is expected to be launched in August, following ministerial approval.

AEDB’s policy director, Imran Ahmed, said that while previous short-term renewable energy policies had focused on wind and hydroelectric power, the new policy includes other sources of renewable energy such as geothermal, ocean waves and tides, solar and bio-waste.

Solar Benefits

The benefits of alternative power sources are already evident in places like Gul Hassan Shoro, a village in southeast Pakistan’s Thatta district. Since November 2010, the village’s 45 households have been using solar-powered electricity installed free by the Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE), a non-governmental organisation.

“We used to stop all kinds of chores and get done with dinner before dusk - and all kinds of other activity would cease altogether. But since the solar energy system has lit up our homes, women do embroidery and other routine tasks at home until late night,” said Nazeeran Shoro, on beneficiary.

The mother of five now bolsters her husband’s income by producing and selling handmade embroidery.

Mahjabeen Khan, a renewable energy expert at SCOPE, a Pakistani NGO, said a new national renewable energy policy could play help provide cheap and clean energy and reduce carbon emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels, which today provide three-quarters of the country’s power generation.

While Pakistan, with 2.5 percent of the world’s population, contributes only about 0.8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, its energy sector is responsible for half this amount.

<i>By Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio

For more information visit http://goo.gl/fBD3m</i>