‘Promote renewable energy but don’t ignore system constraints’

Rasheed Khalid
Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

Islamabad:Pakistan’s ambitious renewable energy plans need to be coupled with close attention on addressing system’s constraints to reduce the volume of unserved energy on the one hand and accommodate the intermittency of renewable energy on the other hand.

This was the consensus evolved at a webinar on “Emerging trends in Pakistan’s renewable energy sector: charting the agenda for 2030 and beyond” organised here by Sustainable Development Policy Institute.

Highlighting the current challenges being faced by the power sector and the milestones which need to be crossed to achieve a stable and sustainable energy ecosystem, speakers said that the addition of renewable energy is non-negotiable in today’s climate but this should be coupled with modernisation of the grid.

Sadia Dada, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, K-Electric, shared an overview of KE’s investment plan already submitted with the regulator and outlines the company’s plans to expand the utility’s transmission and distribution capacity readying it to take on approximately 1200 MW of renewable energy by FY 2030 as envisaged under the utility’s Power Acquisition Programme (PAP).

She maintained that these programmes are being made in alignment with national targets under the Indicative Generation Capacity Expansion Plan (IGCEP) and entail a long-term, optimal cost strategy plan for the expansive growth of power generation within a set of prevailing policies and technical and socio-economic considerations.

In the next seven years, we aim to reduce our reliance on imported fuels to 51% while increasing our dependence on green sources to 49%, she said adding that climate change is impacting countries which were previously relying heavily on renewable energy, making it difficult to maintain grid stability. She said cities like Karachi also present a unique case study, where we see power demands peaking twice in a 24-hour period, which requires a case-specific approach.

Dr Irfan Ahmed, energy consultant, was of the view that renewable energy projects are front-loaded and require upfront heavy investments. He said that to deal with this issue, Pakistan needed to be elf-reliant’ and would have to eventually go for local manufacturing as the country has foreign exchange constraints. He maintained that Pakistan’s electrical network is “bumpy” and this leads to frequent damages to electrical plants and revenue loss, therefore, it is of paramount importance that we repair the non-operational plants locally and produce spare parts for their sustainable operations.

Fozan Waheed, renewable energy expert, spoke about how sudden curtailments in wind power projects jeopardise the grid and make it prone to blackouts. Abubakar Ismail from Amreli Steels Limited remarked that more and more industries are embracing solar power with increasing interest in wind and biomass energy sources as well, however, the current economic conditions pose significant challenges to investment across all sectors, including renewable energy.

Dr Khalid Waleed, SDPI Research Fellow said that the country’s transition to renewable energy should be gradual and orderly so that it would not create more problems for the energy ecosystem.