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Ayoub Hameedi is a policy analyst and the Founder/Operations Manager of Project Green Earth.

Ayoub Hameedi writes about clean energy productioAyoub Hameedi writes about clean energy production and phasing out fossil fuels for sustainable economic growth in Pakistan. n and phasing out fossil fuels to sustainable economic growth in Pakistan. 

The coronavirus crisis is now a familiar situation for all of us. Due to the lockdown, many of us work from home whilst others are not quite as fortunate to avail of this privilege. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) referred to COVID-19 as “the worst economic crisis the world
has experienced since the Great Depression.” Due to the negative impact of the pandemic, the economic situation in Pakistan might seem to be uncertain. However, with proper planning, implementation and follow-ups, the government can turn things around in a positive direction. It might not happen in a year or two but with grit, resilience and determination, Pakistan can regain the economic momentum in the span of a decade. Yes, it is possible for Pakistan!

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Pakistan produces a lion’s share of its total energy from oil and natural gas. Quite fortunately, the country is extremely rich when it comes to receiving ample sunshine and wind on a year-round basis. These renewable resources can easily produce 100 per cent clean electricity for the country and thus reduce its reliance on fossil fuels for electricity production. It is quite unfortunate that roughly one-fifth
of the total population in Pakistan (i.e. 40 million people) lack access to electricity. Adding insult to injury, the rising circular debt in billions of dollars, poor transmission infrastructure and line losses causes black-outs for even those who have access to electricity. It halts and impedes the economic growth in the country and gives birth to a sharp rise in unemployment.

A rapid transition to 100 per cent clean sources of power production is a much-needed step for the government of Pakistan to solve the energy crisis and to guide the country towards energy independence. It must be appreciated

that the government is increasing installed solar and wind power capacity in Pakistan. However, the pace of implementation is very slow. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey (2015 – 2016), various wind, solar and biofuel based clean power generation projects were completed in 2015. These projects then enhanced the cumulative installed capacity by another 438 megawatts. Fauji Fertilizer Energy Limited, Three Gorges First Wind Farm Private Limited, Quaid-i-Azam Solar Private Limited and Jamaldin Wali (JDW)-III are a few completed examples in this regard. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), India increased its installed wind power capacity from 10.9 gigawatts (in 2009) to 35.2 gigawatts (in 2018). Likewise, India enhanced its installed solar power capacity from 39 megawatts (in 2009) to over 27 gigawatts (in 2018) respectively. A lion’s share of this installed solar power capacity (roughly 17.5 gigawatts) was added in 2017 and 2018 alone. Thus, altogether, India installed over 51 gigawatts of solar and wind power based electricity generation projects in the last 10 years. This is rough twice the total installed power generation ability in Pakistan.

© Jason Houston / WWF-US

Likewise, it can kick start mega solar power parks with an installed capacity of multiple gigawatts in Balochistan, the largest province in terms of area and with the least population. Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa can equally serve as an engine for solar power parks on a mega scale to help the country transition to clean energy in the coming decade. Apart from solar power parks and wind farms, the government can also turn all of the generated municipal solid waste into heat and electricity through the installation of waste-to-energy power plants in the length and breadth of the country. Pakistan can easily have a cumulative installed capacity of 70 gigawatts with the help of solar power farms, wind parks and waste-to-energy power plants in the coming decade. It is extremely realistic, provided, proper resources and policy measures are taken in this direction.

Let’s say if the government of Pakistan sets aside US$ 3 billion a year for the pension fund
for future generations, it would mean a cumulative US$ 30 billion in a span of a decade and US$ 60 billion in 20 years. If the proposed pension fund grew by three per cent each year, it would mean an addition of a few more billion dollars to the original capital, since the total sum would grow continuously due to regular saving and returns for the coming 20 years. It is also equally important that we expand the export portfolio of Pakistan to maximize revenue and to reduce the budget deficit. An export of clean electricity to neighbouring countries is an excellent idea to increase revenue through exports. Forest-based tourism activities and provision of an excellent environment for startups in Pakistan are equally great too. Yes, there are countries across the globe that earn revenue in billions of dollars through the export of electricity, forest-based tourism and IT-based solutions to countries around the world. Sweden, New York State (in the USA), India and Germany are few examples in this regard.

The coronavirus pandemic has allowed all of us to spend more time with our families, to understand each other better and to realize things that we might not understand in ordinary circumstances. Now is the time to realize that it is the right of each citizen in Pakistan to have education, employment, healthcare services, job security and to receive a pension upon retirement. It is a wake-up call to realize the need for a strong pension fund for future generations that can be used to sustain economic growth in challenging times. Steering the economy of Pakistan towards clean sources of power production and the creation of a pension fund for future generations should have been done a decade ago. Nonetheless, now is the right time to rely completely on a clean source for electricity production, phase out fossil fuels and create a pension fund that could sustain economic growth in Pakistan, just in case such a crisis were to reoccur in the future.