Power sector in 2030
To meet growing demand as energy access progresses, Pakistan is undertaking a major expansion of electricity generation capacity. In recent years, Pakistan has achieved its short-term energy goals of eliminating power and gas shortages. However, this has been largely achieved by commissioning new coal fired power plants and LNG-importing infrastructure.
The Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy 2019 aims for a 20% share of renewables in power generation by 2025, and 30% by 2030, along with 30% share of large-scale hydro.,,,This is a relatively slow increase for the latter technology which has contributed, on average, to a 26% share of Pakistan’s power generation in each of the last five years. However, this does represent a significant ramp up of other renewables, which in 202-21 made up just over 3%., On the other hand, 1.5°C compatible pathways show the need for an even greater uptake in renewables by 2030, reaching shares of 76-81% by that time.
The government’s recently released generation capacity expansion plans indicate that hydro and nuclear power generation will significantly increase, along with a more modest increase in that from wind. This would result in a steady decrease in power emissions intensity, declining to 0.202 kgCO₂/kWh by 2030. In comparison, for the 1.5°C compatible pathways, this indicator would need to decline to 0.082-0.084 kgCO₂/kWh by 2030.
Although coal has played a minor role historically in Pakistan’s power mix, the government plans to meet anticipated future growth in energy demand, in part, through new coal capacity, including plans for coal gasification and liquefaction of indigenous coal. At the same time the government has neglected opportunities to develop wind and solar resources which are price advantageous and domestically available.,
Further increasing coal capacity would exacerbate the existing problems with overcapacity and consequent high electricity prices for consumers, which further suppress demand. The result has been an ongoing problem with circular debt in the country’s power sector. Moreover, increasing coal capacity would make Pakistan more reliant on energy imports thus reducing the country’s energy security.
Towards a fully decarbonised power sector
A 1.5°C compatible pathway would require that Pakistan reach full decarbonisation of its power sector by 2038. This would be mostly driven by a strong uptake of renewable energy reaching 93-95% by 2040 and 95-100% by 2050, and a corresponding phase-out of gas between 2038 and 2045. Other studies have shown that at regional level, coal will need to be phased out by 2040 in South and East Asia to be compatible with the Paris Agreement.
Pakistan is one of the most at risk countries from adverse effects of climate change. This has implications for the power sector. Increasing extreme heat, high temperatures, and low river water flows during the summer period will likely affect supply and thermal power plant efficiency, damage oil and gas infrastructure, while also increasing electricity demand for cooling and irrigation.
While hydropower has been an important source of low emissions electricity generation in Pakistan historically, the effects of climate change will likely also hinder its use and/or reliability in the country in the future as warming leads to a recession of Himalayan glaciers and greater variability in water flows.,
Thus, increasing the role of variable renewables such as wind and solar, will not only help Pakistan to avoid stranded assets and carbon lock-in risks, it is also key in both mitigation and adaptation efforts.