Renewable energy sources (Solar, wind, Hydro) have long established themselves as a viable alternate to Fossil fuel energy resources. It provides substantial benefits for our climate, our health, and our economy and dramatically reduces global warming emissions, improves public health, and provides jobs and other economic benefits. It has outpaced conventional forms of energy on several counts, including investment and research and development. Since 2006, installed capacity figures for solar photovoltaic cells and wind power across the world have increased by over 5,000 per cent and 658pc respectively. These achievements are a result of well-conceived policies, technological advancements and economies of scale. Nations across the world are actively pursuing renewable energy. EU countries are set to replace their ageing coal and nuclear power plants with renewables. Even the GCC countries — with their abundant oil and gas reserves — are investing in renewables. China has become the world leader in renewable energy in investment, installed capacity and the manufacturing and export of products. India has developed 28GW of wind power and has set a target of 100GW solar energy by 2022.
Compared to all this, Pakistan’s performance in the renewable energy field has been dismal, despite a very rich resource base. The brilliant hydropower developments of the 1960s and 1970s could not be built upon in subsequent decades. It is only in the last few years that solar and wind energy have appeared on the scene thanks to a few fragile accomplishments. For instance, the much-hyped Quaid-i-Azam Solar Park is reportedly in disarray. Considering the mandate of the Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB) and the targets it set in 2003, wind and solar energy projects as of 2017 are a fraction of what was promised for 2007. Having shown an interest in renewables by establishing the AEDB in 2003, Pakistan was already a late starter. The AEDB, operated in a directionless manner and Its lackluster performance in the initial years eroded the confidence of policymakers who decided to place it under the control of the water and power ministry in 2006-07. Ever since, renewable energy has been on the back burner.
Pakistan needs to adopt renewable energy as a key priority. With their established technical and economic benefits, renewable technologies can end our energy woes and drive us towards a sustainable future. To realize this, however, Pakistan needs to have a coherent and goal-oriented approach. Focused and integrated efforts are required on multiple fronts. Like global trends, renewables should be on the top of our energy agenda. The national energy policy should be re-enacted, and engage the concerned state departments. Rejuvenating the AEDB or replacing it with a new body with a clear mandate and due policy and financial support is important. Energy market and regulatory frameworks need to be revamped to attract foreign and local investment, foster public-private partnerships, enact quality standards, and allow room for new and innovative market approaches and business models. To change CPEC’s energy projects from thermal power plants to renewables would be a superior option. It is high time that policymakers give renewable energy its due importance, for it can propel the country towards energy and socio-economic prosperity.