Sustainable Energy Solutions for the Region

International panel discussion

Heinrich Boell Stiftung in collaboration with Sustainable Development Policy Institute held a panel titled, “Sustainable Energy Solutions for the Region” at the Sustainable Development Conference in December 2016.  The objective of the panel was to foster learning around renewable energies across countries in Asia in the wake of climate change and increased demand for energy due to population increase and development plans.

It is a well researched fact that energy sector forms a considerable portion of GHG emissions around the world. The demand of energy is increasing in the Asian countries and according to an estimate it will double by 2030. The increased threat of climate change and to meet the increasing demand of energy in the region, cooperation can play an important role in generating, transferring and sharing power in a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable manner. On a regional level this could be achieved by joint and equitable use of natural resources, technology transfer, and knowledge sharing and learning from best practices on renewable energy generation.

Speakers participated from across the region; China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Germany. Speakers from Afghanistan and Germany participated via virtual communication tool-Skype. Mome Saleem, program coordinator ecology moderated the session and introduced the work of hbs Pakistan in renewable energy sector. Following is the brief detail of what was discussed during the session.

  1. Global Trends in the Renewable Energy:

In order to set the stage for further discussion, Ms Rebecca Bertman, Policy Advisor, European Energy Transition, hbs Berlin, shared that compared to the past couple of decades, due to the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change in December 2015, costs of renewable energy production have dramatically decreased. Wind and solar energy have become as competitive as other forms of energy throughout the world, while the price of geothermal and bio-energy has risen even further as they are not as efficient. She explained how there was more investment opportunity in renewable energies in the developing countries as opposed to the developed countries and how small scale investments can play a major role in the development of renewable energies and the fight against global energy issues. She concluded by citing example of Bangladesh as a country which is slowly becoming a major user of solar energy.

  1. Regional energy collaborations:

Mr Tao Wang, Assistant Dean at the Yicai Research Institute in Beijing explained how China is the leading manufacturer and installer of renewable technology equipment. He said that despite progress in renewables, the percentage of renewable energy being produced needs to be increased manifold. According to him, Pakistan could learn lessons from China about energy governance, such as providing more government subsidies to the local community to develop solar panels and wind energy equipment. He stressed the need to evaluate the energy policy of a country on the basis of its individual needs and demands.

Aliyas Wardak detailed the existing cooperation agreements between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He shared that some of the projects are halted due to the political reasons.

The chair of the session Dr Musadiq Malik, Advisor to the Prime Minister for Water and Power, Government of Pakistan shared the priorities of the government. He said that the Government of Pakistan wants to improve accessibility, affordability and create a sustainable market place for energy. In order to achieve these, energy sector requires adoption of three principles i.e. empowerment of life and livelihoods, equity and justice for the poor. According to Mr Malik, in Pakistan the principle of equity is yet to be achieved. He shared that the energy sector in Pakistan suffers from lack of investment and intellectual capacity. For more efficiency meritocracy, transparency, and accountability reforms are required such as less bureaucratic structure and heavy regulation give way to more competition. Crafting of a balanced and cheaper energy mix is the need of the hour. In Pakistan LNG plants is a new entrant in the clean energy and there is over two billion cubic feet of gas.

  1. Community Power: Prof. Dr Tanay Sidiki Uyar, Head of the Energy Section, Faculty of Engineering, Marmara University; and, Vice President, World Wind Energy Association (WWEA), Turkey and Mr Zeeshan Ashfaq, World Wind Energy Association, Pakistan, spoke about the community power in the energy sector. They both highlighted that there are enough renewable energy resources (wind, sunlight and biomass) for power to be freely available throughout the world. The only constraint has been the availability of technology (windmills and solar panels). It was emphasized that the alternative energy resources, technological improvement, and alleviating fossil fuel usage is important for providing cheapest renewable energy solutions to the people. Dr Sidiki said, “Ironically, one of the biggest problems now is storing the energy produced from renewable resources, something that needs to be addressed urgently. Pakistan should work in small communities to find alternative indigenous energy solutions.” They spoke about the existing community power generation models including Chitral, where a public private partnership (PPP) between the local government and the community had resulted in the development of hydro projects.

Mr Ashfaq outlined the barriers for the community in power development, such as lack of social awareness, technical illiteracy, financial constraints, complex planning processes, regulatory framework, technology and political instability. According to him, solutions to such problems lie in favourable legislation, setting targets for community power, financial subsidies and grid connectivity.