A solution for the energy crisis in Pakistan —Bilal Naqeeb

In India, waste-to-energy projects have been successfully implemented since 1995. Most of the initiatives are designed to harvest energy from the waste produced by industries, e.g. the waste of palm oil industries in Andhra Pradesh and the poultry droppings of one million birds of nearby poultry farms in Tamil Nadu

The worst ever energy crisis in
the history of Pakistan has not been overcome yet, even when two years have passed since the present government took charge in February 2008. The minister for water and power stipulated several deadlines to overcome the crisis on different forums, but no effort has brought us fruitful results.

The situation requires not only simultaneous short-term and long-term planning but also out-of-the-box solutions that are innovative, cost-effective and adaptable, and have the potential to tap private sector investment.

The energy crisis is not unmanageable but requires a high level of commitment from the government machinery to address it on priority basis. The country has a total installed power generating capacity of 19,450 megawatts (MW) from different sources. Presently, the share of energy consumption in the country is 23 percent residential, 34 percent industrial, 34 percent transportation, 3.0 percent commercial, 3.0 percent agriculture and 3.0 percent government offices. It is interesting to note that of the total installed capacity the public sector contributes 70 percent while the private sector’s share is estimated at 30 percent.

In order to cater to the needs of the domestic and industrial sector, a shortfall of 8,000 MW is estimated, to overcome which is targeted by FY2010. There are a number of alternate energy resources that are being considered by the planners. These include: wind, solar, solar thermal, biomass (waste-to-energy), bio fuels, micro hydel, geo thermal and geo magmatic.

In Pakistan, quite a few organisations in the NGO sector have the ability to provide technical solutions and backing support for service delivery development programmes. Green Circle Organisation (GCO) is one of them, which has been developing and implementing multi-dimensional programmes in the sector of agriculture and production of energy. According to the president of this organisation, the most suitable alternate option to produce low cost energy in the private sector is “waste-to-energy”. Such types of programmes can be developed and implemented at the district level and can be managed locally.

Like in China, the government should motivate and support city governments for the implementation of projects for renewable biomass energy. It is estimated that the top 10 cities of Pakistan produce 50,000 tonnes waste, which can be used to produce 6,000 MW energy. In Faisalabad alone, 714,000 households produce 714 tonnes garbage (1 kg/household at minimum), which can be utilised for the production of 86 MW. It does not include the waste produced by factories and textile industries which is more than 50 percent of the total waste and has high heating value.

For the purpose of management, it a decision is required on the size or models to serve communities and businesses, e.g. villages, union councils, industries, shopping malls, tehsils/towns and districts, etc. Considering the availability of resources, local needs and potential of consumers, different patterns of infrastructure can be developed and implemented.

In India, these kinds of projects have been successfully implemented since 1995 with the assistance of international funding agencies. Most of the initiatives are designed and implemented to harvest energy from the waste produced by industries, e.g. the waste of palm oil industries in Andhra Pradesh and the poultry droppings of one million birds of nearby poultry farms in Tamil Nadu. In 2008, the federal government decided to set up 31 waste-to-energy additional power projects in eight states. During 2004-05, projects based on industrial wastes were entitled to subsidy for reducing the rate of interest to 4.0 percent for special category states and 6.0 percent for other states on the loans availed by promoters through financial institutions. The financial support for municipal solid waste-based projects was available during 2002-03 (capital subsidy of 50 percent of the cost of projects limited to Rs 3.0 crore per MW for demonstration projects and interest subsidy for commercial projects) and was under review for rationalisation.

The government should plan to subsidise the installation and production of energy through new sources. At present, WAPDA purchases electricity at different prices, i.e. furnace oil-based production at Rs 12.5 per unit, Sui gas-based Rs 6.5 per unit and the lowest is hydel-based at Rs 3.5 per unit. The cost of waste-to-energy is anticipated to be on the lower side in the long run after developing infrastructure and human resource capacities.

In order to sensitise and educate different stakeholders, academia and the media should organise debates at different forums, which will create acceptance for such types of investments in public, corporate and not-for-profit sectors. In addition, academia should emphasise on such technologies while designing courses so that sufficient human resources may be produced in the years to come.

Bilal Naqeeb is a development practitioner, working in the areas of social sector programme planning and management. He can be reached at bilal.naqeeb@gmail.com

Article reproduced by permission of DT



  1. Energy Technologist

    There have been alot of talk. From hydro to wind to wave. The problem with pakistan is that, none of these options are going to work. Pakistan is a small country compared to its population. hydro dams aside from being expensive in an effectively bankrupt country, drown large amounts of precious land, so Pakistan can not meet all of its energy needs by hydro generation. wind, solar and wave technologies are not proven and are expensive toys which hardly contribute a few percentage of power demands in the most rich and technologically superior countries so Pakistan should not gamble on these toys and spend its precious money on them. Coal power plants are a very attractive option, since pakistan has coal reserves to provide its energy needs for several dozen years, but they are dirty and generally any kind of power plants are not cheap. A 1,000 MW plant costs upwards of a billion euroes, and that is only the price of the plant and does not include a billion dollar more needed to develop a large enough mine to feed coal for the plant. Nuclear plants cost several times more and can cost upto 10 billion dollars for a 1,200 MWh. Pakistan does not have the technology to make nuclear power plant and currently no other country also wants to sell nuclear plants to Pakistan due to terrorism problem. Pakistan as of now is short by 6,000 MW and as the population grows and people’s expectations shoot up and half of Pakistan that is right now not connected to electric grid, become connected, You can imagine how many plants Pakistan has to make. Also it takes anywhere between 4 years for a small coal plant to 12 years for a large dam or nuclear plant to be built.

    Right now facilities like airconditioners and computers are used by less than 10% of pakistan and most of the economy is based on ancient agricultural techniques. If pakistan is ever to become modern and industrialized then it needs, at least 1 Kilowatt hour capacity for every person. With a current estimated population of 180 million that comes to 180 thousand Megawatt hour capacity. Pakistan has now just 20 thousand. With growing population Pakistan would need more than 360 thousand MWh of energy by 2050, when Pakistan’s population hits 360 million.

    So what is the solution. Pakistan does not have money and technology to develop its own plants. Independent power producers and private generating units are also not a long term option as they are thieves selling the same electricity in Pakistan for up to 55 US cents per kilowatt hour as compared to 12 cents in Canada and United States, under the pretext of investment in a risky terrorist infested country. Only one option remains, which is fortunately for Pakistan is both very cheap and reliable as well as least time consuming. The option has only one glitch, and that is, it will accompany the wrath of USA. That option is Iran. Iran can provide Pakistan with almost unlimited amount of natural gas which is much cheaper than the prevailing LNG prices in the world. Also Iran has a very developed electricity generation system and has offered Pakistan to meet the entire Pakistani shortage of electricity by offering the subsidized rate of 11 cents per kilowatt hour. Iran has even offered to build the entire transmission lines to Pakistan entirely with its own money and expertise on a record time of 14 months. If Pakistan just says ok. there will be no load shedding by the next summer. It is a very brilliant option both economically as well as security wise. Economically Pakistan will get as much power as it needs comparatively cheaply, and can spend its little money on developing industries and other needed infra structure instead of building power plants. And since Pakistan is going to be dealing with a government that is the brotherly government of Iran, Pakistan will no more need to play a slave to IPP’s. These kind of arrangements are immensely successful and promote peace and prosperity, for example almost all of the countries in continental Europe buy their power from France and Germany. But alas our leaders are too afraid of US. They have not learnt anything from Turkey which is in a similar situation to Pakistan being an American client. But Turkey despite being a client has defined its red lines with USA regarding its national security. So Turkey buys both gas and electricity from Iran, and Americans understand that Turkish people will not listen to them in these regards unless USA could satisfy their energy needs instead of Iran. But since USA can not even satisfy its own energy needs and has to import energy itself then Turks buy cheap energy from Iran. Pakistan could do the same if it had the guts to tell Americans that either they should meet the national energy needs by the next summer or that Iranians will be invited to take care of our problem. It is a choice Pakistan has to make today and not tomorrow. Iran is pakistan’s only option. And pakistan is lucky that its only option is in the lap of a brotherly country which is not only trustworhty but also eagerly willing to help out. Pakistan should not die of energy starvation while its brother is willing to feed it.

  2. shabbir

    Planet of Earth Energy Crisis.

    Dear Sir,

    Subject mater all over the World facing Energy problem So I am trying to
    explain an idea for Old & New Dams / Reservoirs Hydel Civil Design can
    move in architectural Transition to increase our energy potential
    Because we are losing heavy quantum of already storage water in our
    Big Dams to generate past technology now need to convert into New
    theory of Technology.


    with best regards.

Leave a Reply