Alternative Energy

I’ve recently been reading a bit on alternative energy and discussed the possibilities with a number of people. President Bush’s remarks on the subject in his recent state of the union address also sparked off a number of discussions.

Pakistan produces little oil, but has enough natural gas reserves to be self-sufficient. Though gas prices have gone up recently, it used to be so cheap that often people left their stoves on 24/7. And it’s still much cheaper than oil.

With the recent rise in gasoline prices, more and more cars are turning to CNG (compressed natural gas). All that is required is the installation of a CNG kit which turns the car into a gas-petrol hybrid. The cost of the kit is pretty high, but it should be covered within a few months by the fuel cost savings. Owning a CNG station is also a very profitable business in Pakistan.

Here is a good article on how China is planning to meet its energy needs. If it turns to gas, whether natural or coal extracted, as its primary energy source, it should have a trickle down effect in making CNG car kits and other gas equipment more affordable.

But gas is still a finite fuel. It is renewable energy that will really make a difference. Just speaking from a Pakistani’s point of view, most of our electricity is generated through hydro-power. There are plans to build a number of additional dams, including the highly controversial Kalabagh dam, but these will have a negative impact on the environment (if they ever get built). What the focus should be on is other alternatives.

Though it’s unlikely we’ll have anything as sophisticated as the Australian solar tower anytime soon, there is a lot of potential for utilizing the abundant sun and wind power that is present here. There isn’t even a shortage of land for this. Solar stations could be setup in the deserts or barren plains of the south, while wind turbines can be erected in the hills and mountains in the north. It would also allow power to be available in very remote or backward areas that currently aren’t reachable by power lines.

Actually, a friend of mine is planning to experiment with this after importing equipment from China. The costs are still high, especially for solar cells, but again, China could help reduce these. From the above mentioned article:

“…. That’s why China is also pumping billions of dollars in to renewable energy. Everything from solar, to wind power, to biomass. By 2020 China wants 15%of its power to come from renewable sources.”

However, cost is just one of a number of hurdles in generating your own power in Pakistan. The recent trouble in Balochistan, where most of the natural gas reserves are, and hostile locals in other areas, make security a huge concern. Government policies are another. Unlike some other countries, where you get paid for any surplus power sent back into the grid, here you’ll get a hefty fine. Things are changing fast in this country so let’s hope for the best.