1 October, 2017
Pakistan has been facing serious electricity demand shortfall of around 5000-5500 MW since 2007 leading to long hours of load shedding in both rural and urban areas, according to the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) of Pakistan.
Only 190 million people which constitute to 67 per cent population in Pakistan have access to electricity. This leaves more than half of Pakistan’s population to rely on traditional use of biomass – almost 56% population uses biomass as a source of energy.
About 65.07 billion kg consumption has been estimated, which is equal to 22.57 MTOE and accounts for 44% of the total primary energy needs of the country. The share of firewood in the traditional energy is about 56%. The household sector is the major end user and consumes 86% of the total biomass energy.
Overall Pakistan’s primary energy consumption is steadily increasing. From 2006, the demand for 64 million tonnes has increased to 83.2 million tonnes in 2016 and is expected to increase at a constant rate. According to the IEA forecasts, total electricity demand will rise to more than 49,000 MW by 2025 as the country’s population increases.
Most of this demand will be met by natural gas. Pakistan already depends heavily on its natural gas reserves for different sectors of the economy. Because of its importance as an alternative and relatively cheaper fuel, the natural gas remains main source of fuel accounting for 50% of all energy consumption. The country remains one of the most gas intensive countries in the world.
Gas is used not only for generating electricity, but also by industry for manufacturing and fertilizer production. Pakistan has one of the largest networks connecting households which use gas for cooking and heating, according to the World Economic Report.
Pakistan has significant indigenous resources that are stuck in the ground because prices paid to firms to explore and produce gas are not competitive. Production of gas in recent years has stagnated and reserves are on a decline. Production from new gas fields is barely replacing the depletion from the existing fields. However, in the short term, natural gas is part of the answer to Pakistan´s electricity shortage at an acceptable cost
While hydropower can produce cheaper electricity, it takes time to construct and commission a hydel plant. Another stumbling block is the low oil prices because of which the consumption of oil has almost doubled in the past decade mostly due to lower oil prices and natural gas shortages.
Pakistan’s dependence on gas and oil will reduce dramatically, according to the Pakistan’s Energy Vision 2035 report. But an increase in coal, hydel and wind energy is envisioned. At the moment coal consumption is negligible in Pakistan particularly at a stage when the world uses 41% of coal as against a consumption of 0.4 per cent in Pakistan. This is a massive missing link which puts a huge burden on other sources of energy.
Coal based projects have not gotten off the ground. But in the Thar Desert, Pakistan has begun to dig up one of the world’s largest deposits of low-grade, brown, dirty coal to fuel new power stations. The project is one of the most expensive among an array of ambitious energy developments that China is helping the country to build as part of a $55 billion economic partnership. The plan is to extract coal to generate 1.3 gigawatts of electricity that will be sent across the country on a new $3 billion transmission network.
Thirst for energy is taking Pakistan in the opposite direction of Western countries that are trying to reduce dependence on nuclear power. Germany, which until March 2011 obtained one-quarter of its electricity from nuclear energy, is phasing out all nuclear power plants under Germany's Energiewende, or energy transition, policy to curb its carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy.
At the moment Pakistan has a small nuclear power programme. However, it plans to produce 8900MW of energy through nuclear power generation by 2030. The country was using a 462MW of nuclear energy up until 2005 which increased 900MW in 2015 and 1030MW in 2017, according to Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.