Renewable energy technologies, especially solar, have seen rapid growth over the past few years to improve energy security and access and to mitigate climate change. Countries like Germany have long since jumped on the solar bandwagon and are now producing a third of their electricity from solar power. Interestingly, Pakistan is a perfect candidate for solar power generation, considering the high levels of solar irradiation we receive. Yet, solar only contributes a meager 1% to Pakistan’s energy mix against a potential of 2.9 million Megawatts according to Pakistan Alternative Energy Board.
Investment in solar technology can improve energy access, create jobs, increase income, improve trade balance and contribute to industrial development. The socio-economic benefits of solar are astounding and its’ impact can be maximized with sound macro-level policies.
Pakistan’s investment in solar energy will not just be a step towards powering the future but will also be a step towards ‘creating jobs’ in the operations, maintenance, and manufacturing sectors. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the renewable energy job market is booming and is predicted to grow by 24 million jobs by 2030. More so, the IRENA has also predicted that doubling the renewable energy portion in the global energy mix can increase the world’s GDP by $1.3tn. Therefore, a steady switch from the mechanized and capital-intensive fossil fuel technologies to the labor intensive solar industry is the next step to creating more jobs.
For a developing country like Pakistan, solar energy investments can be very stimulating for our economy and trade. Currently, Pakistan’s economy heavily depends on a regular supply of imported fuels, with a demand of 23 million tons per annum, which is expected to rise to 27 million tons by 2020 according to sources. By eventually reducing our fuel imports, we can improve our trade balance and improve our GDP, as we will no longer be spending huge sums of our foreign exchange reserves. More so, we can be a ‘green economy’ beneficiary by encouraging domestic and foreign investments which can enable manufacturing and boost our services sector.
Pakistan’s energy crisis has left its industries in a crippling state. Lengthy load shedding and power cuts lasting more than 12 hours have caused a huge decline in production. Moreover, reliance on diesel generators and other energy sources are an additional cost that has to be borne. Hence, by going solar, Pakistan can easily overcome this energy crisis and work actively towards its industrial development and growth.
Solar power being distributed energy is available anywhere. In Pakistan’s case, this is particularly favorable as solar energy is easily scalable and can be harvested in areas with little to no electricity. According to IRENA, half of Pakistan’s rural population still has no access to electricity. Hence, providing these villages with solar power systems can easily change their lives for the better.
Lastly, our current dependency on fossil-fuel based power plants is putting us in a compromising situation. Carbon emissions, floods, droughts, heatwaves are just a few of the environmental and climate issues we are currently facing. According to the Long-Term Climate Risk-Index (CRI), Pakistan is ranked 7th with a death toll of 523.1 lives per year due to extreme weather events.
In conclusion, there is no denying that the environmental benefits of going solar are great however, in Pakistan’s case it is the potential economic change that makes solar so lucrative. Solar energy can be the stimulus for our economic growth and development. Our present energy situation can easily be tackled and we can set ourselves on the road to reliable and sustainable energy infrastructure.