Govt’s Short Term Approach to Energy Policy is Sacrificing Pakistan’s Future

Pakistan has been facing acute electricity shortfall for the past decade or so and the situation only seems to be worsening with time. To solve the issue, the government is on track to execute a power generation strategy that could extract a potentially high environmental cost and even lives in the coming years and decades.

While the world is moving towards cheap renewable energy resources, Pakistan is wasting money on expensive fossil fuel plants. Renewable energy costs have drastically dropped over the past few years whereas fossil fuel prices have continued to vary.

On the other hand, these fossil fuel & oil and gas-powered plants are hazardous to public health as well as the environment. This raises serious questions about the long term vision of our energy policy makers.

Pakistan’s Electric Shortfall

Pakistan electricity shortfall is  rising steadily. It stands at about 3,000MW during the winter season and rises to over 7,700MW during the summers (25% more than the maximum power capacity of Pakistan). This results in about 3 to 20 hours of loadshedding depending on the area and the time of the year.

CPEC experts have predicted that Pakistan’s electric shortfall will increase to 9,208 MW by 2017 and 10,844 MW by 2020. In comparison, Pakistan’s power generation capacity is estimated to be 26,531 MW by 2017 and 29,131 MW by 2020.

Every year, 0.7 to 0.8 million new electricity consumers are added to the grid while 0.5 million new air conditioners add another 1,000 MW to the system.

Government’s Power Strategy

The government has planned to establish new hydel, coal, gas, nuclear and solar power plants to overcome the power shortage. However, due to the immediate nature of the crisis, Pakistan has focused on power plants which can be completed quickly.

While hydro power plants produce cheap electricity, they require huge investment and are time consuming to set up. Fuel based power plants and solar power plants are two possible solutions for mass scaled power generation on a short turn around time.

But due to some odd reason, the government chose fuel based power plants which are more expensive in the long run. Coal based power plants make up the majority of the planned projects.

The government has planned at least 9 coal fired power projects with combined stated capacities of over 10,000 MW. In comparison, only one solar power project has been announced which will have a total capacity of 900MW when it finishes (currently operating at 200MW).

Read More: All You Need to Know About Electricity Projects Under CPEC (Part I)

Coal Power Plants and the World

It is being said that China is “investing” in coal power plants in Pakistan. On the other hand, China has been shutting down all of its coal power plants. China’s capital, Beijing has pollution issues, much like Lahore and Karachi, and thousands of people die because of it.

Situation in Beijing When Coal Power Plants Were Operating

Nearly 200 countries are part of the Paris Climate agreement which aims to reduce carbon emissions and pollution. To meet the target, most countries have either shut down coal power plants or are employing coal capture technologies so that carbon is not emitted into the air.

The whole world is now more focused on renewable energy sources which are getting cheaper by the day. Australia, US, Mexico and several other countries have shut down coal fired power plants in recent times. Yet Pakistan is focusing almost exclusively on them.

Read More: All You Need to Know About Electricity Projects Under CPEC (Part II)

Potential Hazards of Coal Power Plants

Coal power plants are the second largest source of Nitrogen Oxides which cause eye, nose, throat irritation, serious damage to the respiratory tract, fluid build-up in lungs and even death.

Nitrogen pollutants can also cause smog (ozone pollution), like the one witnessed in Lahore recently, which can cause respiratory issues and serious breathing diseases through permanent damage to the lungs.

Particulate matter is produced through coal smoke and nitrogen pollution which can cause heart attacks and exacerbate other diseases. Thousands of people die from particulate matter each year.

Coal plants are also responsible for releasing other air toxicants into the air which can have a serious effect on the development and the health of the brain. Young kids in particular are susceptible to these effects and could suffer from learning disabilities and other disorders. One of the toxins, mercury, can cause brain diseases among children and heart diseases among grown-ups.

Coal also has a significant effect on global warming. Pakistan is the 7th most affected country due to climate change and coal power plants will only worsen the situation in the years to come.

Unaccounted Health Costs

While the government may be considering the relatively low cost of coal power generation, one aspect which is directly linked to the use of coal is often missed out.

As mentioned above, coal burning power plants, or even other fossil fuel electricity generators, are hazardous to the health. As health risk and diseases increase due to such power sources, the governments overall costs will increase. A holistic view of the situation is required and it seems to be missing.

Final Words

When others are shutting down coal power plants due to their hazardous consequences, Pakistan is aiming to launch several new ones. Even courts around the world are making decisions in favor of complainants against coal power plants and are ordering them to be shut down.

If the plan proceeds as it is, Pakistan could see a country-wide smog like situation similar to China. The effects of climate change could also be made worse. The government either has to set up coal capture technologies on all plants or make use of alternate power sources which aren’t as hazardous to Pakistan’s future and its people.

He is the Editor-in-Chief at ProPakistani. Reach out at aadil.s[at]

    • Aap jaisay josheely aqal sy paidal trool bijli na hony ka rona ro ro kr asman sar pr uthalyty hain warna sustainable hydel energy projects take years to complete.

      • SOLAR is getting ever cheaper, Abu Dhabi recently auctioned the project at 2.5 cent a watt, which is roughly equal to coal

        recently Elson musk ( Tesla) offered electricity to Australia at a price of 2.5 cents to be deployed in 100 days else its free

        Agar personal commission income ko ignore kar k options talash kiye jayen to there are opportunities

        we have agreed for Qauid e Azam park at over 11 cent

        • 90 companies bid in abu dhabi solar to drag cost down, how many do you think even consider bidding here even if there was 0 corruption? and tulsa offer is to store energy produced by other resources, cost you mentioned is only for storing and not producing.
          even uae which plans to spend 163B$ on renewable by 2050 has a target of 44% renewable by then and some geniuses here are projecting solar as our short term solution.

          • Lets get things straight

            1- I am not suggesting 100% solar as a solution,

            2- Coal is getting discarded from around the world, as its most polluted, and if you can get solar at roughly the same cost as coal why not solar

            3- Money chases money every where if you offer good returns investors will come in

            • No, money do not attract money in all scenarios, govt has given ridiculously high solar tariffs in previous years but no one came to invest even when everyone was blaming govt for giving too high solar compared to other countries.

              Yes, we SHOULD build solar plants if we can get them at cheap rates but at same time we NEED base loads capacity to overcome shortages and reduce reliance on expensive thermal options and here coal comes in. Solar or wind are great but they are not yet ready to take on base loads as backbone of electric production. Once we overcome our base load issue, spend every last dime on renewable and no one will complain but until then there will be voices against seemingly perfect options of solar, wind etc

      • LOL. These imaginary hydel power projects will produce electricity like Quaid e Azam solar park.

      • Aur aap jaisay dheemilay, chaploosi main koi kasar nahi choortay. Phir us k liye white ko black karna par jaye ya black ko white.

      • ان جاہل انقلابیوں کا کام صرف بھونکنا ہے بس پہلے چار سال ناچ ناچ پر برباد کر دیے میٹرو کے خلاف بک بک کرتے رہے اب میٹرو بنانی یاد آ گئی تھوک کر چاٹنا کوئی ان سے سیکھے ٢٠١٣ سے مسلسل بھونک رہے ہیں اور ٢٠١٨ آ گیا ہے امید ہے اس کے بعد بھی اسی طرح بھونکتے رہیں گے

    • The electricity sector in India had an installed capacity of 315420 Megawatt.India is the world’s third largest producer and fourth largest consumer of electricity.India’s coal production was about 605 million tons, making it the third largest producer globally.Around three-quarters (68%) of electricity generation in India depends
      on coal. The verified coal reserves in India are estimated at 60.6
      billion tons as of 2013, ranking again as number three globally.

      • India Installed capacity by source in India as on 28 February 2017 is
        Coal: 189,047.88 MW (60%)

  • So petrol is better then coal??? People in Pakistan are inhaling Indian coal smoke anyway for years. And now burger kids are worried about environment with only few Coal plants in PK

    • There are other options in the play,

      SOLAR is getting ever cheaper, Abu Dhabi recently auctioned the project at 2.5 cent a watt, which is roughly equal to coal

      recently Elson musk ( Tesla) offered electricity to Australia at a price of 2.5 cents to be deployed in 100 days else its free

      Agar personal commission income ko ignore kar k options talash kiye jayen to there are opportunities

      we have agreed for Qauid e Azam park at over 11 cent

    • “People in Pakistan are inhaling Indian coal smoke anyway for years. And now burger kids are worried about environment”

      That’s one of the most ignorant comments I’ve ever read. We’ve seen hottest summers ever three years in a row now. Environment isn’t some sort of a joke that you can screw up and hope to survive. Global warming is the most imminent threat to humanity right now, even more so than nuclear world war.

  • most funny part in this article is world is moving towards renewable energy.
    they are not removing their old plants they are just planting new renewable energy plants and it will only effect little cause as time passes energy demand is increasing.
    countries like china,USA ,india produce about 70-80% energy from coal and their is no future plan to cut those source and use renewable energy.
    developed countries with small population are turning to renewable energy but they have relatively small population and a lot of money
    where pakistan’s problem is that their is energy shortage and have to be address as quickly as possible to have a sustainable growth if this government install many hydro power plants then this government tenure ends and new came and they just corrupt the money for those hydro electric power plant which took more then 10 years to complete then their will be problem bigger then this and we could reach a point where is no turning back. their are clean energy projects and some are pretty big but they take time and money and if you look the condition of pakistan their is no time and little money

    • Please do some research before making such claims. ALL modern countries are moving towards renewable energy. Majority of USA’s electricity (11.6GW) is produced via solar energy. Finland, Sweden, France, China, Australia, New Zealand, everyone is shutting down fossil fuel plants and moving towards solar and other renewable alternatives.
      Are you saying that you know more than MIT, University of California, Stanford and World Bank’s researchers and they are all wrong?

      • US dependence on fossil fuel is about 85% of total energy they produce china 88% and is on the rise if you ask about arab countries they are worse 100% on fossil fuel with no program to reduce it austrailia 93% NZ 61% nether land 100% norway 62% and on the rise india 72% on the rise iran 93% germany is reducing but still 81% france is reducing 48% from 95% but both country are developed and have little population to serve and for pakistan 60% those coal power plant are for short term use they can help stable our economy and can end load shedding till the time we are enough powerful to produce power from nature and till we complete ours hydro power projects few thing to learnhydro power plant take more then 10 year depending on its size and need 6x cost and for solar and wind they cost more then hydro to generate same amount of energy and take and take have high maintenance for coal it only take 2-4 years to complete the plant only due to its silos and not to forget about thar coal one of the largest coal mine in the world

        these values are taken from worldbank

      • That is in Domestic Category(commercial and household)
        As all the above meantioned countries are Industrialized………..most heavy Industries need fuel for burning so as a result there fossil fuel consumption will increase gradually or remains constant for the next 60-70 years please google some energy consumption forecasts for 2050 and you will come to know the reality

  • Article is highly funded by PTI or Indian lobby who dont want to see Pakistan progress Pakistan is going to produce 10000 MWs from coal and they have started barking what about the big guns us is producing 299 GW from coal , china is producing 943 GW, India is producing 185 GW and fassadis in this country are shouting on just 10 GW believe me this is not going to harm the climate much shame on writer who is comparing grain with the mountain

    • Please learn to calculate first. 10000MW is 10GW not 0.1GW.
      Secondly, try searching google for “coal plant shut down” and you will get to know what’s happening around the world.Each of the numbers you have stated, apart from India, are completely wrong or outdated.

      • thanks for pointing out the mistake but still it is nothing countries have been producing 100s of GWs since 1950s and there is no fuss but a 3rd world country start to produce electricity from coal to meet the requirement and all loose their head they have already polluted the environment we can run these plants for 25 years with focus to build hydel and renewable energy sources 41% of total world electricity production is from coal these are 2015 figures it is easy to negate others without providing any reference

  • We know that PP has to get clicks and writers are not subject specialists but this

    “Fuel based power plants and solar power plants are two possible solutions for mass scaled power generation on a short turn around time”

    is the worst demonstration of basic knowledge of power industry I’ve read for a long long time. And regarding govt’s decision for coal instead of comparing with developed countries and oil rich middle east, try comparing with bangladesh which is building coal plants with chinese money at same per unit cost as us and remember BD is heavily congested and even more effected by global warming.

    Next time some genius gives you example of BD progress, remember that their govt made decisions not popular with fancy crowd but for long term benefit of their people.

    • Please dont joke. You want Pakistan to follow Bangladesh? A country with dictatorship and similarly poor climate situation which sees thousands of people die due to natural disasters every year?
      Its people’s lives not a political campaign. Try to be neutral and unbiased as it wont help you in this life or your afterlife.
      If you disagree with the writer’s statement, please clarify what other “mass scale” power production methods can be implemented in a short amount of time and which is reliable. You also seem to be suggesting that MIT, University of California, Stanford and World Bank’s researchers are all wrong but you seem to have more insight on the best possible electricity solution for Pakistan.

      • Why stop at MIT,Cal or Stanford? you can also name Cambridge,Oxford etc to back your outlandish claims without linking to any actual research. Pretty sure any professor at any of these institutes will laugh at your face if you suggest that you plan to solve energy crisis for a nation of 200M with solar energy on today’s technology.

        And as far as your issues with climate are concerned, I am quite confident that god will not punish me for supporting coal power in afterlife. Sure there are disadvantages to coal as are to almost all energy sources, even solar can cause environmental issues in large scale applications but at end of day, you have to decide about pros and cons and choose what you think is best. You can disagree as is your right but don’t make false claims.

  • In the United State almost 82% of electricity is produce from coal, and they are burning like there is no tomorrow. We are dying due to shortfall. It the worst thing in life to live without electricity. Government should make use of all available resource no matter what, so solve the current problems. Yes for long like you have mentioned, need more environment friendly decisions. With technological advancement the exhaust gasses can be treated followed by carbon sequestration. But to waste 175 billion tons of coal under the ground while civilian living in the dearth of energy would be insane.

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