Why wind is underutilized in Pakistan for power generation?

Pakistan is facing a serious energy crisis, with rising electricity costs, mounting circular debt, and dwindling foreign exchange reserves. The country is still relying on expensive and polluting fossil fuels to meet its power demand, while ignoring the potential of renewable energy sources, especially wind power. Wind mills are a clean, green, and affordable way to generate electricity. It can help Pakistan reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, diversify its energy mix, and attract foreign investment.

However, the current policy environment is not conducive for the development and growth of wind power in Pakistan.

In this blog post, we will highlight the challenges and opportunities of wind energy in Pakistan, and urge the government and other stakeholders to take urgent action to support this promising sector.

wind mill

The Benefits of Wind Power

Wind is one of the fastest-growing renewable energy sources in the world. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, the global installed wind turbines capacity reached 743 GW in 2020, an increase of 53 GW from the previous year. Wind power accounted for 9.1% of the global electricity generation in 2020, and is expected to grow further in the coming years.

Wind power offers many benefits for Pakistan, such as:

  • Cost-effectiveness: Wind mill is cheaper than most conventional power sources, such as RLNG, RFO, and coal. The average wind tariff in Pakistan is PKR 14.7 per kWh, which is lower than the average cost of electricity generation in the country. Moreover, wind power has a low marginal cost, as it does not require fuel or water. Once the wind power plants achieve their capacity factor of around 38%, the tariff drops significantly, offering electricity at as low as PKR 0.75 per kWh.
  • Cleanliness: It is a zero-emission source of energy, which does not contribute to air pollution or climate change. It can help Pakistan meet its target of reducing its emissions by 50% by 2030, as well as its commitment to increase the share of renewables to 30% of the national power generation by 2030.
  • Reliability: Turbine windmills are a stable and predictable source of energy, which can complement other intermittent renewables, such as solar and hydro. It can also reduce the dependence on imported fossil fuels, which are subject to price fluctuations and supply disruptions.
  • Job creation: Alternate energy sector can create employment opportunities for local communities, especially in rural areas. According to a study by the International Renewable Energy Agency, the wind sector employed 1.2 million people globally in 2019, and has the potential to create more jobs in the future.

The Challenges of Wind Power

Despite the obvious benefits of wind energy, Pakistan is not fully utilizing its wind potential. The country has an estimated wind potential of 346 GW, of which only 610 MW has been exploited so far. According to Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), the main reasons for this slow progress are:

  • Policy inconsistency: The Renewable Energy Policy 2006, which provided incentives and guarantees for wind power investors, has not been implemented effectively. The policy categorized wind power plants as “must-run” plants, which means they should be given priority in dispatch and off take by the national grid. However, in reality, the wind power plants face frequent curtailment and reduced off take, resulting in operational losses and compromised return on investment. The policy also promised a fixed tariff for 20 years, but the government has recently proposed to revise the tariff downwards, creating uncertainty and distrust among the investors.
  • Lack of facilitation: The Special Investment Facilitation Council, which was established to promote foreign direct investment in five focus areas, including energy, has not been able to provide an enabling, facilitative, and protective environment for wind power investors. The investors face bureaucratic hurdles, delays, and corruption in obtaining approvals, permits, and land acquisition. The investors also face security risks, as some of the wind power projects are located in remote and volatile areas.
  • Lack of coordination: The wind power sector suffers from a lack of coordination and cooperation among various stakeholders, such as the federal and provincial governments, the power regulator, the transmission company, the distribution companies, and the private sector. There is no clear division of roles and responsibilities, and no effective mechanism for dispute resolution. The wind power sector also lacks a strong and unified voice to advocate for its interests and rights.

The Way Forward

It is high time that Pakistan realizes the importance and urgency of wind power for its energy security and sustainability. The government and other stakeholders should take the following steps to support and promote the wind power sector:

  • Implement the existing policy: The government should honor its commitments under the Renewable Energy Policy 2006, and ensure that the wind power plants are given full and fair dispatch and off take by the national grid. The government should also respect the existing tariff agreements, and refrain from any unilateral or retroactive changes. The government should also expedite the implementation of the Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy 2019, which aims to create a more conducive and competitive environment for renewable energy development.
  • Facilitate the investors: The government should streamline and simplify the processes and procedures for wind power investors, and provide them with one-window facilitation and assistance. The government should also ensure the security and protection of the wind power projects and personnel, and address any grievances or complaints promptly and fairly.
  • Coordinate with stakeholders: The government should establish a dedicated and empowered body to coordinate and oversee the wind power sector, and to liaise with all the relevant stakeholders. The body should also monitor and evaluate the performance and impact of the wind power sector, and provide feedback and recommendations for improvement. The government should also encourage and support the formation of a representative and effective association of the wind power industry, and engage with it in a constructive and transparent manner.

Wind power is a win-win solution for Pakistan, as it can provide cheap, clean, and reliable electricity to the country, while also creating jobs, reducing emissions, and attracting investment. However, the wind power sector needs a strong and consistent policy support, a smooth and efficient facilitation, and a coordinated and cooperative approach from all the stakeholders. If these conditions are met, Pakistan can harness its wind potential and become a leader in renewable energy in the region and beyond.

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