The Greening of Pakistan

Posted on June 28, 2006
Filed Under >Bilal Zuberi, Economy & Development, Environment, Science and Technology
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By Bilal Zuberi

Reportedly, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is encouraging the use of alternative energy sources in Pakistan.

“We must make the best use of untapped energy potential in the form of wind and solar energy to meet the growing requirements in the long-term. This has become all the more important in the face of soaring oil prices… Mounting energy requirements on the back of robust industrial growth demand that the country exploit its hydropower capacity as well as benefit from abundant alternative energy means.â€Â?

This could be a much needed leadership stance to at least explore what alternative energy sources can become available for Pakistan in the future. Researchers in Pakistani universities should jump on this opportunity to take lead in unleashing energy stored in solar, wind, water/tidal, bio-fuels, hydrogen, coal, gas, nuclear and other alternative fuels. Energy derived from alternative sources can not only be renewable, but also cheap, clean and locally accessible.

For example, last year, nearly $1.6 billion of venture capital investments in the US were made in the clean-technology industry, and they have exceeded the total investments in semi-conductor industry . How and where is Pakistan positioning itself in this next technology boom? There is a huge potential for an agriculture based economy like Pakistan to trade up in value derived from its crops.

Pakistan is already going to make a move from diesel to CNG (starting 2007). In the past, chairman of the Alternative Energy Development Board of Pakistan, has also announced that Pakistan will derive 650MW of energy from wind sources, and up to 9700 MW (5% of total installed capacity) by 2030.

Is the alternative energy/renewable fuel/environmental movement finally catching interest in government circles? How can we help strengthen their resolve (if it is real and not just hot air) and bring other necessary resources to the table?

Dr. Bilal Zuberi is Vice President of Product Development at GEO2 Technologies in Boston (MA), USA. (See more at Bilal’s blog).

13 Comments on “The Greening of Pakistan”

  1. MSK says:
    June 28th, 2006 1:57 pm

    Do you think this interest is real, or just rhetoric.

  2. June 28th, 2006 2:23 pm

    It is hard to gauge the ‘real’ in their interest. More importantly, can they really deliver, given that they have a retd military guy heading the Alternative Energy Development Board? I don’t know th e gentleman very well but I would have liked to see somebody with a private sector business focus to lead that effort – not another fauji foundation/steel mill type scenario.
    Does anybody know what is the status on private energy creation and distribution in Pakistan? Can electricity be generated locally and pumped back into the grid at a price? For example, can a private entity generate wind generated eletcricity in Thar, and pump it into the grid for use in Hyderabad, Sukkur or Karachi?

  3. Hamza says:
    June 28th, 2006 2:25 pm

    It’s a good idea in theory but like MSK im a bit skeptical if anything concrete will work out…..

  4. June 28th, 2006 2:33 pm

    Bilal, yes co-generation has been a possibility in Pakistan since the late 80′s, early 90′s. That is, a company producing excess energy could sell it back to the grid. I see no reason why this could not be done with renewable generation too.

    The problem, however, is the GRID. What do you do if there is no grid near where you are generating your wind energy. As in most developing countries, the grid in Pakistan is scattered and non-comprehensive. I have never much liked the idea of the ‘grid’ (alternatives could have been decentralized small and mini hydels, etc.); it was one of the many ‘modern’ ideas imported in the name of ‘development’ and without thought to local conditions. It also produced the ‘politics’ of grids. Which is why promising to ‘bring’ electricity to your village (i.e., bringing the grid) is so popular in our part of the world.

  5. June 28th, 2006 2:42 pm

    Sarah posted this on my blog. it may be of interest here.

    skarim said,
    June 27, 2006 at 2:34 am

    Energy is definitely a hot topic these days – and I was surprised to note that there were quite a few sessions on alternative energy at the recent POGEE conference in Karachi (Pakistan Oil, Gas and Energy Exhibition) in May (see

    One point to note re: Pakistan’s move from diesel to CNG – another very popular alternative fuel in the transport sector is that of LPG. If you were to talk to a taxi driver in Karachi, they’ll give you an estimate that about 90% of taxis are actually running on LPG, and not even CNG. And while this is anectodal and I may be partial to the positive benefits of LPG b/c I work in this sector, a few interesting articles for you:


  6. June 29th, 2006 12:14 pm

    I just read this at another blog on Solar power for Pakistan ( Thought it may be appropriate here:
    (mansoor on Jun 29, 2006 1:01 PM) I found this analysis on How Stuff Works. A “typical home” in America can use either electricity or gas to provide heat — heat for the house, the hot water, the clothes dryer and the stove/oven. If you were to power a house with solar electricity, you would certainly use gas appliances because solar electricity is so expensive. This means that what you would be powering with solar electricity are things like the refrigerator, the lights, the computer, the TV, stereo equipment, motors in things like furnace fans and the washer, etc. Let’s say that all of those things average out to 600 watts on average. Over the course of 24 hours, you need 600 watts * 24 hours = 14,400 watt-hours per day. From our calculations and assumptions above, we know that a solar panel can generate 70 milliwatts per square inch * 5 hours = 350 milliwatt hours per day. Therefore you need about 41,000 square inches of solar panel for the house. That’s a solar panel that measures about 285 square feet (about 26 square meters). That would cost around $16,000 right now. Then, because the sun only shines part of the time, you would need to purchase a battery bank, an inverter, etc., and that often doubles the cost of the installation. If you want to have a small room air conditioner in your bedroom, double everything. I’ve been monitoring the usage of my house, and we consume about 10 Kilowatts per day (STEEP!!!). Now, in order to have solar panels for that, i would need a number of panels, from this site, i picked one at random, which produces 170 watts for an investment of $839 per panel. A quick calculation (from the data provided on the site), tells me i need atleast 6 of these panels to power my house meaning an investment of $5034 (or Rs. 3,02,040) without addding any sort of tax or extra charges on the modules and i need a space of about 30×15 feet to house it. (again from data provided for this module). Now the KESC rate for domestic supply is about 7.5 per kilowatt (at their lowest slab), meaning that my monthly electricity bill becomes 2250 (without the charges, surcharges, and extra surcharges :S). So, just on these ideal figures (just the power usage, no infrastructure costs), it would take me about 135 months or about 11 years just to breakeven the cost of the cells. I think we should wait another decade or something, or encourage NEDians and other engineering universities to come up with solutions.. and let the prices fall down a bit. Its expected that the price will fall down to about 1/5 of what it costs now over the next decade.. which just may make this a viable option.

  7. Babar Bhatti says:
    June 29th, 2006 11:54 pm

    The politics of alternative energy is complex and anywhere it is subject to hijack by the special interest mafia.

    There’re plenty of technical entrepreneurs in Pakistan who can make a difference
    (I’ve met a few of them and felt their frustration) .. but their recommendations and research is going to waste because the people at the top are incompetent & corrupt. Just look at who’s in charge of policy & decision making at the top – retired army generals/air marshals!!

    In terms of energy education and research Pakistan lacks the critical interdisciplinary work. For example in the engineering schools civil engineers don’t talk with mechanical engineers about HVAC when it comes to building energy efficiency.

    One factor which is working in Pakistan’s favor is that both China and India are increasingly stepping up work and research on energy efficiency and alternative energy – some of that should spill over to Pakistan as well.

  8. Shirazi says:
    June 30th, 2006 3:48 am

    Useful post and substantial follow up here. Let us assume that interest is “real”. No?

  9. July 1st, 2006 4:32 am

    I think the green movement is real – now we need to move it beyond the realm of environmental supporters to the businessmen so they can invest. I will try to look for official Pakistani energy policy documents that may outline a strategy for future energy needs.
    On a side note: a related post has been published at: Would Pakistan be able to play in the ethanol world? (meaning produce and export ethanol from biomass).

  10. Asif S says:
    September 19th, 2006 11:15 am

    I am gld you wrote on this subject. I hope you cover moe on this. Especially since Prof. Najam is an expert in this area. There are some interesting developments in Pakistn on environment which we should push and encourage.

  11. Hanif says:
    September 21st, 2006 10:46 am

    We people converted cars to ‘gas’ early on in Pakistan because of petrol prices and there is lot of talk about biofuels becasue of teh cost of petrol more than because of environment reason. But eventually it will be good for environment also

  12. Rana Faisal Latif says:
    March 3rd, 2008 5:01 am

    I am student of commerce( my point of view energy is the baises on which the economy of a country base.pakisitan is one of the country in the world who have huge amount of recorcess but unfourtunately these have become useless becouse of improper planing if we want to live more in the world we need to efficent use of our resoucess and do plan next 10years.

  13. Asif S says:
    July 31st, 2010 5:52 pm

    I am gld you wrote on this subject. I hope you cover moe on this. Especially since Prof. Najam is an expert in this area. There are some interesting developments in Pakistn on environment which we should push and encourage.

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