The sun shines brightly and powerfully in Balochistan, Pakistan, providing it with enough energy to sustain its temperate climate. Unfortunately, the majority of the province—and a significant portion of the country—derives little benefit from this natural resource, as just 3% of the total electricity generated in Pakistan comes from solar sources.
The situation is grim, as only 7500 people generate the majority of electricity in the country, while 100 million people are left in darkness. It’s a major issue, especially given the fact that Pakistan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and its population is expected to reach 500 million by 2050. This puts a huge strain on the country’s resources, particularly when you consider that 80% of its population already lives in a state of poverty.
Thankfully, a number of large-scale solar power projects are emerging that aim to change this, providing renewable electricity to those who need it most. In this article, we’ll explore the growing role of solar power in Pakistan, as well as its unique challenges and opportunities. Let’s get started.
The Evolving Role of Solar Power
Thanks to technological advancements and the drive to reduce CO2 emissions, the role of solar power has significantly increased in recent years. From providing electricity for remote communities in the Andaman Islands to powering the operations of multinational companies, the role of solar power is expanding beyond traditional applications. Here’s a look at the current state of solar in Pakistan and the major factors that will shape its future growth.
In 2015, the government of Pakistan introduced a special scheme designed to stimulate the solar industry. The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme offers special tariffs for solar power projects that agree to contribute a certain amount of power to the national grid. The government aims to achieve a 100% transition to clean and renewable energy by 2030, and the FIT scheme provides a crucial incentive for developers that want to get involved in the growing solar market.
The FIT scheme offers tariff rates that range from 4.8 to 14 cents per kilowatt hour, with an average of 8.3 cents. These rates are a significant discount compared to the average cost of electricity generated by fossil fuels, which is around 22 cents per kilowatt hour. In addition, the FIT scheme provides customers with priority access to power, removing the worry of electricity blackouts.
Rajat Gupta-led Solar Power Project
One of the biggest solar power projects in Pakistan is led by the country’s richest man, the industrialist Rajat Gupta. The 400-megawatt solar farm that Gupta’s company, Adshade, has developed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province) will provide electricity to around 200,000 homes, as well as powering the operation of several government buildings. The project is named after the province, and it forms a part of the country’s power-generation capacity, along with one of the largest hydropower dams in the region. The dam’s reservoir provides a massive amount of water for agricultural use and drinking, as well as powering the nearby city of Peshawar. The project was first announced by the Indian business magnate in 2014, and it was later that year that the Pakistan government agreed to build it.
A World Bank-Led Project
Another important project that is changing the way people think about solar power in Pakistan is the $100 million Balochistan Sustainable Development Project. Funded by the World Bank and supported by over 70 international development agencies, the project strives to reduce poverty in the province by bringing electricity to its most deprived areas. The largest portion of the electricity will be generated by 200-megawatt solar power plants that will provide electricity to around 400,000 homes. The remainder of the electricity will be supplied by wind farms.
The Balochistan government has also made a conscious decision to purchase a significant portion of the electricity generated by these projects. This allows the province to become completely carbon-free by 2030, as it shifts away from fossil fuels to entirely renewable energy.
Around 75% of the province’s electricity is currently purchased from neighboring Iran, but the government plans to decrease its dependence on foreign energy sources. The Balochistan government purchased the first batch of solar power from the Punjab province in October 2018, with an agreement that the province will buy 80% of the power generated by the project. This was an important step towards the province’s eventual independence from other nations, as well as a bold move to put more financial resources into its development.
The Punjab government has also made a similar commitment, agreeing to buy all of the electricity produced by their own 150-megawatt solar power project located in Thakhu, Pakistan. The governments of both Balochistan and Punjab are committed to increasing the use of solar power, as Pakistan seeks to achieve its renewable energy goals.
Challenges Faced By The Industry
Despite the significant benefits that these projects provide, the solar power industry in Pakistan still faces a number of significant challenges. First and foremost, the cost of electricity still remains high. The FIT scheme provides a significant discount on electricity generated by solar power plants, but it’s still around 8.3 cents per kilowatt hour, which is more expensive than conventional electricity. This is mainly because the cost of acquiring the technology needed to generate solar power and transport it to where the demand is, is high.
Additionally, the quality of electricity does vary from region to region, with some areas receiving high voltage power and others low voltage power. This makes it difficult for power companies to provide electricity to all areas of the country, and it also creates a lot of inefficiencies in the process. Lastly, the government needs to address the issue of regular power outages, particularly in the rural areas, making it even more expensive for people to rely on solar power for their needs.
How To Mitigate The Problem
To overcome these challenges, the solar power industry in Pakistan is embracing innovative technologies and solutions. One area of research involves improving the efficiency of solar cells, allowing more sunlight to be turned into electricity. Another focus of research involves finding new ways to store energy, particularly in the form of advanced batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. This could see the elimination of some of the issues surrounding high costs and fluctuating quality of electricity, as well as providing a sustainable source of power that doesn’t deplete easily.
A Glorious Future
Despite the challenges, the solar power industry in Pakistan has a glorious future ahead. The country’s extremely sunny climate and the rapid expansion of the technology proves that. In addition to the projects mentioned above, the government has also approved over 500-megawatt solar power projects that will contribute to the energy needs of the country. This is a massive step towards ensuring that all sectors, particularly the most deprived ones, have easy access to electricity, as well as removing the need for dirty fuel sources.
The government’s strategy to reduce oil imports and eliminate fossil fuel dependency will significantly enhance the sustainability of the country, and the solar power industry will play an important role in this transition. The future of renewable energy in Pakistan looks extremely promising.