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4,000-MW Coal Plan ‘Won’t Provide Much Space’ for Pakistan’s Ambitious Renewables Target

Pakistan may be jeopardizing its own hopes of bringing renewable energy to 30% of its electricity mix by 2030, from 4% today, by pursuing a parallel plan to build new coal plants.

The targets recently announced by Syed Aqeel Hussain Jafry, policy director for the Alternative Energy Development Board, include wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, wave, and biomass energy, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports. A simultaneous increase in hydropower capacity could bring all forms of clean energy to 65% of Pakistan’s supply mix, according to the head of the country’s energy reform task force.

“But the legislation leaves in place plans to build seven more coal-fired power plants as part of the second phase of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project—something that could impede scale-up of renewable power,” the news service writes, citing renewables developer Zeeshan Ashfaq, managing director of SOWITEC (Solar Wind Technology) Pakistan.

“A coal pipeline of around 4,000 to 5,000 megawatts will not provide much space for renewables,” he said.

The new national policy was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic after receiving cabinet approval in December, but various sources told Thomson-Reuters it represents a step forward that could “unleash Pakistan’s full potential” in renewable energy development. “The last government’s focus was on investing in fossil fuel power plants,” Ashfaq said. “This new government is much more open to renewable energy and wants to promote it.”

The government plans to attract private sector investment through annual auctions, and “international investors could put as much as $15 billion into the plan by 2030, Ashfaq predicted—though he cautioned that renewables investment would depend on clear government targets for its use, and growing demand for power as the country industrializes,” the news service writes.

But Pakistan’s continuing commitment to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor means coal plant construction will continue through 2024. “Nearly 70% of generation capacity of CPEC power projects is coal-fired,” Ashfaq said. “With CPEC coal power projects, coal-fired generation capacity will increase from 3% in 2017 to 20% in 2025.”