Pakistan to boost the share of renewable energy to 30٪ by 2030 as coal production continues

The latest national renewables policy, approved by the Prime Minister's cabinet last December, was hindered by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Entrance to Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Park. (Zofeen T. Ebrahim)

This week, Pakistan set in motion a plan to boost the share of its electric power that is produced from renewables to 30% by 2030, up from about 4% today, government officials said.

“The targets in the recently announced policy are a 20% share of renewables in the fixed capacity of Pakistan’s electricity by 2025 and 30% by 2030 respectively,” informed Syed Aqeel Hussain Jafri, The Policy Director for Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB).

He said the plan would mainly include wind and solar power, but also geothermal, tidal, wave, and biomass energy. With boosts in hydropower capacity expected, the shift could bring the share of clean energy in Pakistan’s electricity mix to almost 65% by 2030, said Special Assistant to The Prime Minister on Petroleum, Nadeem Babar.

Yet the legislation leaves plans to build seven further coal-fired power plants as a chunk of the second phase of The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – something that could impede the scale-up of renewable power, alerted Zeeshan Ashfaq, a solar and wind energy developer in Pakistan.

Sahiwal Coal Power Plant, Punjab

“A coal pipeline of about 4,000-5,000 megawatts will not provide a great space for renewables,” informed Ashfaq, Managing Director of SOWITEC (Solar Wind Technology) Pakistan.

The latest national renewables policy, approved by the Prime Minister’s cabinet last December, was hindered by the coronavirus pandemic as negotiators attempted to resolve disputes with individual provinces.

Yet Federal Minister for Planning and Development, Asad Umar, explained on social media the resolution of those conflicts now opened the way to “unleash Pakistan’s full potential” for renewables.

New investment in renewable energy is anticipated to come from private investors, with prospective suppliers bidding in yearly auctions and low-tariff proposals winning, said Babar, Chair of the Energy Task Force.

Jafri said that the policy represented a significant shift from the past when investors approached the government with individual projects.

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