Pakistan this week set in motion a plan to boost the share of its electric power that comes from renewables to 30% by 2030, up from about 4% today, government officials said.
“The targets in the newly announced policy are a 20% share of renewables in installed capacity of Pakistan’s power mix by 2025 and 30% by 2030,” said Syed Aqeel Hussain Jafri, Policy Director for Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB).
That will include mainly wind and solar power, but also geothermal, tidal, wave and biomass energy, he said. With boosts in hydropower capacity expected as well, the shift could bring the share of clean energy in Pakistan’s electricity mix to 65% by 2030, said Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Babar.
But the legislation leaves in place plans to build seven more coal-fired power plants as part of the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project - something that could impede scale-up of renewable power, warned Zeeshan Ashfaq, a solar and wind energy developer in Pakistan.
“A coal pipeline of around 4,000-5,000 megawatts will not provide much space for renewables,” said Ashfaq, Managing Director of SOWITEC (Solar Wind Technology) Pakistan.
The new national renewables policy, approved by the prime minister’s cabinet last December, was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and as negotiators tried to resolve disputes with individual provinces.
But Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said on social media the resolution of those disputes now opened the way to “unleash Pakistan’s full potential” for renewables.
New investment in renewable energy is expected to come from private investors, with potential suppliers bidding in annual auctions and low-tariff proposals winning, said Babar, Chair of the Energy Task Force.
Jafri said the policy represented a significant shift from the past, when investors approached the government with individual projects.
Ashfaq, the renewables developer, said the current government had shown more interest in renewable energy than previous administrations.
“The last government’s focus was on investing in fossil fuel power plants. This new government is much more open to renewable energy and wants to promote it,” he said. Babar said most of the new planned renewable power would be solar or wind, divided roughly equally between the two technologies, and coming from everything from wind farms to rooftop solar.
“We already have more than 30 wind and solar plants in operation, all financed privately by local and international banks, multilaterals and export credit agencies. New ones will be financed the same way,” he said. The new renewables plan represents “an ambitious target but achievable”, he said.
International investors could put as much as $15 billion into the plan by 2030, Ashfaq predicted - though he cautioned that renewables investment would depend on clear government targets for its use, and growing demand for power as the country industrialises.
Growth in power demand has slowed over the past two years, with Pakistan’s economy struggling even before the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2020.