Resorting to RENEWABLES for Electricity Production

Resorting to RENEWABLES for Electricity Production

While other countries of the world have to pay a premium over market rates for renewables to replace fossil fuels, there is no such need for Pakistan. The renewable energy will come cheaper than what is being paid for the equivalent kWh from fossil fuels, and can be financed by domestic public finance, rather than foreign loans. Setting a renewable energy extraction target at three-quarters of what Germany has recently achieved, yields ~ 0.44 kWh/m2, about 350 billion kWh per annum., an additional 1720 kWh per capita (over twice the current level).

The many advantages of pursuing a renewable energy strategy include:

Direct cost: An unsubsidised, locked-in 5-6 US cents/kWh (Levelized Cost of Electricity) price is feasible, beating fossil fuels by some distance.

Indirect costs: Would save on the capital costs of additional transmission lines, as the renewable energy systems can be deployed closer to the centres of consumption, or in areas where building the additional transmission lines is not so difficult (e.g. in the plains versus a mountainous terrain). Power losses would also be reduced by shorter distances between supply and demand.

Financial volatility: There is no fuel price volatility to affect the projected financials.

Foreign exchange pressure: No fuel imports means less stress on the current account deficit and the Pakistani rupee.

Speed: Renewable energy plants, especially solar PV and wind, are much quicker to commission — the difference is not months but years.

Diversification: Renewable energy assets could be simultaneously developed in every province, to geographically and socially diversify the national electrical infrastructure.

Security and resilience: The greater the diversification, the more robust the electricity supply, resilient against both man-made and natural disasters.

Air pollution: Reduces an established cause of about 6 million premature deaths a year worldwide. Pakistani cities and dense villages are exceptionally affected by air pollution.

Freshwater conservation: Avoids the orders-of-magnitude greater freshwater consumption by thermal power plants.

Climate change mitigation: The renewable energy portfolio would do the opposite of harming the environment. It would instead bring about positive environmental changes for those living in harsh habitats. Would also help the common global cause of controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Attraction of foreign clean energy investment: From a growing number of public and private international financial institutions who are making it clear they prefer to fund clean energy projects, many announcing a ban on further funding of coal and the like.

Global branding: Would generate positive publicity for Pakistan worldwide, as a forward-looking economy and progressive nation in the struggle against adverse climate change.

Social satisfaction: Will spur a massive wave of new employment, clean, safe well-paying jobs, as is evident from the renewable energy experience of other countries.

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