Social And Economic Development With Renewable Energy

Pakistan can speed up social and economic development with renewable energy while increasing energy security and improving energy access to all. Renewable Energy resources include bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and wind.

Social and economic development with renewable energy

Energy is one of the primary requirements globally and plays a crucial role in modern society and serve as an important component in socio-economic development of a country.

Recently, the rapid increase in energy demand is significant issue owing to quick developments in industrialization and population. Bioenergy and Biofuels are good sources of renewable energy resources.

Bioenergy can create big opportunities for improving income and employment generation. For the establishment and development of bio-energy production, we require many biotechnological tools at the grass root level.

Some developing countries have already been established similar facilities. However, growing bioenergy consumption results in increased competition for land, which could reduce the overall quality of the environment and restrict poor people’s access to resources.

Despite advancements in technology, people continue to meet their energy requirements for cooking through conventional means by burning biomass resources i.e., firewood, crop residues and animal dung.

Such practices are known to be the source of environmental, social, economic and public health issues. Moreover, it is important to maintain and access clean and affordable renewable energy resources for preserving environment.

Country like Pakistan, facing severe energy crisis which is extremely affecting the lives of people. Renewable energy (RE) can play an important role to minimize energy issues and the biggest challenge is to implement renewable energy policy.

Furthermore, Pakistan is potentially strong in harnessing different resources such as: biofuels, bioenergy, hydropower, solar power and wind energy. Within this framework, the technology for first-generation biofuels is well established now.

In addition, the development of second-generation technology is moving forward at a rapid pace, funded by both governments and private companies.

However, need of time is to add more intensive efforts in facilitating proper distribution of bioenergy technology to harness the inherent potential at both governmental and non-governmental sectors to face all challenges for sustainable development.

Hydropower has traditionally been the most prominent source of renewable energy in Pakistan – making up almost a third of electricity generation with 7.1 gigawatts (GW) of installed grid-connected capacity. The country has up to 60 GW of economic and technical hydropower potential.

The assessment also identifies 50 GW of theoretical wind potential in Pakistan’s southern Sindh and Baluchistan provinces and estimates that 25 million tons of biomass feedstocks from industrial and agricultural residue can be made available for use, per year.

Pakistan is rich in renewable energy potential and with this develop policies, investment opportunities and energy development actions to harness it.

Large Hydropower has proved to be the cheapest source of electricity. Despite the high availability of hydro power resources low investments in this sector hamper the utilization of this potential source. Smaller (less than 50 MW) sites are available throughout the country.

The micro – hydropower sector has been relatively well established yet. Since the mid-80s micro-hydro power plants supply electricity to some 40,000 rural families.

Most of the plants are community-based and situated in the Northern Areas and Chitral. Small Hydropower is considered as another promising option for off-grid generation of electricity. Provincial governments mainly handled the small hydropower sector.

In recent years, Pakistan has seen offering a range of solar home system products including solar water pumping systems, solar lighting solutions and solar water heaters.

With more than half of Pakistan’s total population residing in rural areas, millions remain reliant on traditional biomass use. Among Pakistan’s rural population, only half have access to electricity.

The assessment presents Pakistan to strengthen its policy, regulatory and institutional framework in order to accelerate renewables deployment.

It suggests ways to strengthen renewable energy targets, examines the constraints of existing grid infrastructure, highlights the best mechanisms to reduce costs and address technical challenges, and underlines the potential for private investment in renewables for off-grid and rural electrification.

Pakistan aims at achieving 5-6% of its total on-grid electricity supply from renewables (excluding large hydropower) by 2030.

Due to poor distribution networks, households in rural areas using LPG as fuel pay up to 10 times more than urban households that benefit from subsidized natural gas for residential use

Pakistan has a potential for wind energy specially in the southern coast and coastal Baluchistan. The wind speed is on average 7-8 m/s at some sites along the Keti Bandar- Gharo corridor.

Particularly in the southern regions of Sindh and Baluchistan, the technical potential of wind power is high along the 1,000 km of coastline where wind speeds range between 5 and 7 m/s.

The potential capacity for wind energy is estimated at 122.6 GW per year, more than double of the country’s current power generation level. A newly completed wind farm in Gharo, Sindh Province, is one of a series under construction in Pakistan to reduce the country’s serious energy deficit.

Biomass availability in Pakistan is also widespread. Approximately 50,000 tons of solid waste, 225,000 tons of crop residue and over 1 million tons of animal manure are produced daily.

Large sugar industry in Pakistan also generates electricity from biomass energy for utilization in sugar mills. Annual electricity production from bagasse is estimated at 5,700 GWh – about 6% of Pakistan’s current power generation level.

In the present electricity crisis recently, government allowed sugar mills to supply their surplus power up to a limit of 700 MW to the national grid. It is estimated that sugarcane bagasse can potentially be used to generate 2000 MW of electric power.

However presently it is difficult to obtain more electricity from sugar mills due to grid limitations because most of the sugar mills are located in remote rural areas which are not even connected to the national grid. Integration of electricity generated from biomass energy to the national grid can ease the electricity shortage in the country.

A large number of people in rural areas in Pakistan depend on forests for their livelihood, fuelwood and shelter. Many use the forests in unsustainable ways to satisfy their domestic energy needs. Therefore, forest depletion and degradation are a major challenge.

Almost all of Pakistan’s Biomass power generation is done in steam power plants since biomass gasification and newest fermentation technology has not been introduced in the country.

The Sugar industry has the highest utilization of biomass, with every singly sugar mill being equipped with a biomass boiler for the production of electricity. Some even incorporate high pressure boilers to increase efficiencies.

More than 50 % of the population, mainly in rural Pakistan, relies on traditional biomass for cooking. Common cooking fuels include firewood, agricultural waste and dung cakes.

According to a study about Baluchistan and Sindh region in April 2007, it was appraised that households use on average 920 kg of wood in winter and 560 kg of wood in summer respectively.

The burning of biomass in inefficient stoves and without proper venting or air exhaust causes serious health problems. According to WHO estimates indoor air pollution is responsible for more than 50,000 premature death per year in Pakistan.

Especially women and children are affected as they are most exposed to the smoke and soot from cooking. In addition, the burning of wood is contributing to deforestation which is progressing at a rate of more than 2% per year.

A survey revealed that rural households in Punjab spent on average about 9 % of the total household income for fuel and lighting. However, poor households are forced to invest up to 25% of their monthly income in fuel, kerosene and batteries due to the dysfunctional market.

Due to poor distribution networks, households in rural areas using LPG as fuel pay up to 10 times more than urban households that benefit from subsidized natural gas for residential use.

The demand for electricity in Pakistan has increased dramatically within the last 10 years. Over half of this demand originates from the Punjab province where most of the population resides. Households are mainly responsible the increase of demand. The high demand of industry and local entrepreneurs in turn cannot be met either.

The recent rise in demand is, in part, due to the large-scale instalment of cooling and air-conditioning systems, particularly in urban areas. The demand is especially high in the summer months.

Therefore, many businesses and industries, as well as private households, have resorted to installing diesel generators as back-up which has led to a substantial increase in the cost of electricity in cities across Pakistan.

The main factors which are preventing the rollout of rural electrification are the increasingly high distribution costs and the shortage of power generation which results in breakouts as well as load shedding.

Furthermore, due to the currently very low electricity consumption/demand in rural areas the expansion of the grid into these areas is merely not economical and hence not feasible.

Utilities and distribution companies are reluctant to roll out the grid since the “revenues from tariffs would never be able to provide the returns needed to recover the investment.

Originally published at Daily times

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