Why is Pakistan still pursuing coal?

(Eco Business, 19 Jul 2019) Despite predictions that renewables will compete on price with fossil fuels by 2020, Pakistan remains wedded to China-backed coal power even as its citizens turn away.

Roshan Nabi and her family are suffering another long power cut in the blazing summer heat of Karachi. The 40-year-old mother of five looks at her neighbours enviously as they enjoy free uninterrupted electricity.

“All that I wish for is just one fan to keep my kids cool,” said Nabi, the sole bread winner of her family, who works as a cleaner at two private homes.

Nabi, who has an ailing and unemployed husband, pays a steep monthly bill for the episodic power she gets from the grid. “Their lives have certainly transformed,” she says of the many in her neighbourhood of Korangi who have installed rooftop solar panels, usually to supplement what comes through the grid. “But for me it would be a minimum of six months’ salary for this luxury.”

Sikandar Sardar is among the nearly 50 million Pakistanis who lack access to grid electricity altogether. Many in his neighbourhood of Musharraf Colony, in the capital of Islamabad, also rely on solar: “We have had the solar system for two years and have had no problem since then with power. My brother installed it [with help] from his [neighbourhood] committee.” It cost PKR 60,000 (USD$381) and now the family of six can power two fans, three lights and a small television.

The high upfront cost is the biggest challenge facing those in Pakistan who are turning to renewable energy, mostly solar, to make their lives more comfortable.

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Eco Business, 19 Jul 2019: Why is Pakistan still pursuing coal?