No end to coal in Pakistan

(Eco Business, 24 Jun 2019) Despite the rise of renewable energy as a cost-effective alternative, Pakistan remains wedded to coal power for reasons that have little to do with economics.

Forty-year-old Roshan Nabi looks at her neighbour’s house with envy as they enjoy uninterrupted and free electricity, while her family suffers long power cuts in the blazing summer heat of Pakistan’s port city of Karachi.

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

This mother of five, with an ailing unemployed husband, pays a steep monthly bill for the episodic power that comes through the grid. But many in her neighbourhood in Korangi, one of the city’s several low-income settlements, have installed solar panels on their rooftop. “Their lives have certainly transformed,” she said. “But for me, it would mean a minimum of six months’ salary for this luxury.”

While Nabi’s home is connected to the grid, Sikandar Sardar’s is not. He lives in Musharraf Colony, a slum area in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, and is among the nearly 50 million Pakistanis who still lack access to grid electricity.

Many in his neighbourhood rely on solar power. “My brother installed the solar system [with help] from his [neighbourhood] committee…with a lump sum of PKR 60,000 (USD 381),” Sardar said. This allows the family of six to power two fans, three lights, and a small television. “We have had it for two years and have had no problem since then with power,” Sardar said.

With the state unable to provide reliable electricity to a large number of its 200 million people through the grid, many are turning to renewable energy—mostly solar—to make their life more comfortable. But the big challenge for many is the high upfront cost.

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Eco Business, 24 Jun 2019: No end to coal in Pakistan