The IEA (International Energy Agency) survey suggests that more than 20 million Pakistanis have no access to electricity. Besides, another 75 million Pakistanis with access to grids are forced to live without power for an average of 15 hours a day due to severe load shedding. With the country facing an estimated 4,000-5,000 MW of power shortage, according to the Ministry of Water & Power, it does not come as a surprise that households located in off-grid and bad grid areas tend to rely heavily upon gas and diesel gensets to meet their daily energy needs.

How Can Microgrids Solve the Problem?

For the majority of the off-grid communities, financial restrictions and operational inefficiencies of the system further amplify the challenge of electrification for Distribution Companies (DISCOS). Rural set-ups with lower electricity demand and lower capacity to pay as opposed to their urban counterparts make urban centers the priority for DISCOS. Moreover, for those rural set-ups connected to the grid, insufficient energy access is widened due to inter-province electricity distribution and rural-urban divide. In such instances, microgrids present a viable alternative to the centralized grid infrastructure. Microgrid enhances energy resilience and recovery, reduces energy costs for customers and businesses as energy is now produced near to the consumer that helps reduce line losses and theft.

What is a Solar Microgrid?

A solar microgrid comprises an independent power distribution unit with its own energy generation, storage solution, and demand management system. It is a compressed version of the main electrical grid used to power a smaller geographic area except that it uses solar energy to generate power and supply it to the end user. Solar microgrids can run independently of the main grid; however, in situations where a grid and microgrid co-exist, Solar could be used to provide electricity during peak hours and by charging batteries in periods of lower demand. The grid could be used to support the variable Solar supply.

Are There Any Successful Microgrid Models?

The Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (BREB), established in 1977, works with the key objective of extending electricity supply in rural areas. BREB has established 77 Rural Electricity Cooperatives to implement its electrification program and continues to offer financial, technical, management support while monitoring their progress. BREB alongside has also invested in private energy generation projects in selected areas of the country injecting 600MW of electricity in the rural set-up. BREB’s success in enhancing socio-economic development in the country has received immense support from government and donor agencies.

How can it help Pakistan’s Energy Sector?

It is imperative to modernize distribution systems and introduce smarter grids to allow for the decentralization of energy generation and improve efficiency. Alongside, a rural electrification board like the one in Bangladesh must be set-up to help power the 32,000 villages’ in the country without access to the electric grid. There is also a need to develop some level of market liberalization, ownership models, and structural operations that can attract investments in the microgrid set-up. It is equally important to develop a favorable environment for private investors to procure low-cost finance at the right terms and conditions for scaling-up microgrids and to offer incentives in power generation, especially from renewable energy resources.

Certain policy and regulatory changes working with a key objective of last mile connectivity could help create a conducive environment for implementation of microgrids across Pakistan.

*According to the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) State of Industry Report 2016