September 30, 2010 by Salma Laleka
Pakistan is a developing country but recently it is not doing very well as far as development is concerned. Rather, development and growth in all sectors is seriously being hampered by the energy crisis overriding all other concerns. People are losing hope when they see their businesses face the ‘electric power load shedding’ as it is called, which cuts of energy supply for several hours during a day.
Pakistan seriously needs to consider alternative solutions to its energy needs. Hydro-electric power is no longer sufficient especially with the paucity of big dams and water storage facilities; it is an irony that the water which could have been used for energy generation is lost to floods every year with serious damages to the already weak economy. The government needs to think out of the box and make developmentally appropriate decisions to cut off the chains that are growing stronger around the country.
Solar energy is the basis of almost all kinds of energy used on Earth. Just 20 days of sunshine is equivalent to all the energy stored in the earth’s natural reserves of coal, oil and gas and Pakistan is one of the countries that lie in the high sunshine zone. Why then are we playing blind to this important life link, the sun, which supports and maintains all kinds of life and is a natural source of energy? The answer is simple as far as Pakistan is concerned. The equipment is expensive, needs technically trained manpower for operation, and custom designed solar energy equipment for the needs of Pakistan have still not been designed though experiments are under way. A lot of things need to change before we can consider solar energy. Although an attractive proposition, the ground realities in terms of technology, education and commitment are non supportive. A continuous debate on the feasibility of solar energy in Pakistan is yet to prove fruitful.
Opponents point to high installation costs, the intermittent availability of sunshine (because of dust, fog etc.), the high illiteracy rate and little technological know-how in the majority of rural Pakistan, the prime site for solar energy production. Proponents accept the high installation costs but call the initiative highly fruitful in the long run. They look at the nil input of fuel, relatively low operational and maintenance costs and a longer lifetime of solar energy generation and deem it to be cost effective in the long run. And it is time that Pakistan stops looking at short term but potentially costly solutions and seek long term and potentially cheap answers to its energy crisis.
It seems that more effort needs to be put in to create awareness and acceptability of solar energy benefits, educate people about its operation and maintenance, direct technology towards making solar energy equipment cost effective and conducting large scale experimental projects. All this is very dependent on the government’s will and commitment which is generally weak because of the unending turmoil in the political arena which is detrimental to any long term project.
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