Renewable and Nuclear Energy for Pakistan’s Sustainable Development

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As the engine of development, energy, or more precisely clean energy is indispensable for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Image courtesy: Don Bosco Green Alliance

As the engine of development, energy, or more precisely clean energy is indispensable for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Pakistan’s heavy dependence on other countries to meet its energy needs is neither sustainable nor profitable. Its import-driven energy policy inevitably hinders efforts to achieve the SDGs. Currently, the country imports almost a third of its energy requirements in the form of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), oil, and coal. Considering the political and economic costs of this energy dependency and environmental concerns related to fossil fuels, Pakistan must expedite efforts to utilize indigenous renewable and clean sources of energy.

It is common scientific knowledge that the use of fossil fuels adversely affects the ecosystem through the deposition of acid chemicals. The consequent soil degradation and water acidification affect biodiversity and natural resources. Another negative consequence of Pakistan’s flawed ‘import-driven and fossil-based energy generation policy’ is that it takes a huge toll on the meager foreign exchange reserves of the country, compromises its sovereignty, and renders it extremely vulnerable to price fluctuations in the global energy market.

Thus, to achieve long-term energy security and SDGs, Pakistan must expedite efforts to develop self-sufficiency by harnessing indigenous capacities, renewable energy sources, and last but not least nuclear energy. The reasons for this lay in the fact that fossil technologies have the greatest acidification potential on a life cycle basis

It is worth noting that in technologically and industrially developed societies, the use of nuclear technology for energy generation is a well-established fact and contributes roughly around 20 percent to their energy mix. While the share of nuclear energy in electricity generation in developing countries is less than 5 percent. Increasingly, many countries worldwide recognize the need for nuclear energy for sustainable development and clean energy. In addition to the growing energy requirements, this need for nuclear energy is driven by climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals agenda for 2030 agreed to by states in 2015. In fact, out of the 17 SDGs, SDG 7 is concerned with reliable, affordable, modern, and clean energy. Most significantly, there is a positive correlation ship between energy consumption and human development. Thus, by ensuring energy security, Pakistan can fundamentally improve the health, educational standards, and general wellbeing of its population.

Also read: Is Pakistan achieving SDGs better than its neighbors?

However, the electricity supply and demand gap seriously compromises Pakistan’s development efforts. Despite surplus capacity, the country is suffering from a shortfall of an estimated 6000 GW, probably because of poor governance. The shortfall of energy has resulted in huge economic and social losses. For instance, due to the power shortage, Pakistan incurred a loss of US$ 18 billion (6.5% of GDP) only in the fiscal year 2015.

It is indeed reassuring that Pakistan’s civil and military leadership seems to have grown cognizant of the imperative of clean energy. Speaking at the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 which marked the fifth anniversary of the Paris agreement on climate change, former Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed hope that Pakistan will generate 60 percent clean energy through renewable sources by 2030. Given Pakistan’s vast untapped potential for clean energy, one wonders what prevents us from aiming at 100 percent clean energy. In addition, Pakistan’s National Electricity Policy 2020 is reflective of the national desire to harness indigenous renewable and nuclear energy resources to address the impacts of climate change. Undoubtedly, renewable sources of energy have a great promise in addressing climate change. Nuclear, hydro, and wind power are among the lowest greenhouse gas emitters. Therefore, Pakistan direly needs to turn to renewable and clean sources of energy. Current trends indicate that more and more countries will draw on renewable sources of energy while at the same time depending on nuclear power for a steady supply of baseload electricity. As one of the main sources of low-carbon electricity, nuclear energy has the potential to mitigate the effects of climate change by providing low-carbon electricity for Pakistan’s growing urban population.

Nuclear energy is widely regarded as a clean, reliable, and affordable source of electricity that can also help address global energy and climate challenge. Studies conducted to assess the impact of nuclear energy on the environment found nuclear energy to be comparatively eco-friendly. Although there are still concerns regarding safety and radioactive waste management, concerned authorities in the field of nuclear technology are optimistic that “remarkable” research will help develop a new generation of nuclear reactors, which will be equipped with inherent safety features, and will be more efficient, and will generate less waste. They also cite examples of a long history of the global nuclear industry’s successful management of waste disposal.

Also read: Pakistan has to do more to seek SDGs, report says

Pakistan needs to garner international support for its clean energy drive. It should address safety concerns when pursuing an expansion of nuclear technology and energy. The achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals is contingent upon securing access to sustainable or clean energy, generated through nuclear and renewable sources of energy. To this end, Pakistan must explore all available options and expedite diplomatic efforts to gain access to modern nuclear technology besides enhancing nuclear cooperation with friendly countries. Equally important, Pakistan must develop indigenous resources and capacities. Indeed, as an important player in the global nuclear order, Pakistan has the potential to realize the goal of low-carbon nuclear energy.

 

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