Pakistan has been facing severe energy crisis over the years ultimately resulting in huge burden on crippling economy and a wave of hopelessness in the country. A lot has been said and written regarding flawed energy mix of Pakistan. Over the last year, we have moved a few steps, courtesy of $46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under which a few large LNG and Coal fired stations are in different stages of project development and are expected to start coming online by 2017. Amid the good news, clouds of negativity have remained over the ‘dirty’ coal plants. Unfortunately, we are used to trusting negative news readily and therefore, prefer not to bother conducting a bit of research before strengthening our beliefs. Let us study a few facts before deciding which team we are on in this character assassination of ‘King Coal’.
Per Capita Carbon Emissions
A brief scrutiny of ‘Per capita carbon emissions (tons) by country’ reveals that Pakistan stands at 0.93 tons against 1.64 tons of India, 14.67 tons of Canada, 6.18 tons of China, 7.96 tons of UK and 17.5 tons of US (Source: United Nations Millennium Development Goals Indicators). In other words, it is understandable why most of the developed countries are freaking out and are striving to reduce their carbon footprint as demonstrated in COP-21 Climate Summit last year. Pakistan is not doing badly in Environmental Performance Index either. It can be fairly said that there are no alarms yet and hence this procrastination of not pursuing thermal energy by hiding behind the environmental reasoning can wait.
A comparison of costs of different energy technologies
Pakistan’s electricity consumption per capita stands at 47 Watts/person against global average of 313 Watts/person (Source: The World Factbook). While a country’s energy consumption directly relates to its economic development, it needs no other justification why we are still a struggling economy even after 69 years. It is clear that we need a power infrastructure revamp in order to give a better future to our coming generations. Now let us study our options in the light of Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) of different power generation technologies. For a general understanding, LCOE of a given technology is the ratio of lifetime electricity generation costs to lifetime electricity generation. The global median LCOE of Solar PV technology is 140 USD/MWh while it is 100 USD/MWh for onshore wind, 80 USD/MWh for coal and 100 USD/MWh for CCGT/LNG (Source: IEA Projected Costs of Generating Electricity, 2015 edition). Cost of Solar PV has reduced significantly over the years, but is still too high for under developed country like Pakistan.
Asia and Eastern Europe will not abandon coal
In other words, we need electricity immediately and we don’t have any money in our pocket. Considering the above stated facts, why not go for coal at least to address our immediate energy needs? We would not be the only nation doing this. According to ‘World Coal’ April 2016 edition, Asia won’t be abandoning coal in the near future. Japan’s coal status appears far from threatened and so does South Korea’s. Eastern European nations like Germany, Poland and Czech Republic are still coal dependent.
|Columbia Energy Center, Wisconsin has recently installed state-of-the-art emissions control upgrades|
High Efficiency, Low Emissions (HELE)
The only difference is that upcoming coal plants will operate under the principles of High Efficiency, Low Emissions (HELE). IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2015 states that nearly a third of world’s currently operating coal plants are slated to be retired over 2015-40. Yet the report predicts that for each coal plant retired, the world will add about two more coal plants. But 40% of those added will feature advanced coal technologies. The new plants will have supercritical and ultra-supercritical technologies and Carbon Capture & Sequestration technologies which will reduce the carbon footprint. Thus ‘King Coal’ is not going anywhere.
We can conclude that coal fired power still has a good future especially for a developing country like Pakistan. Modern clean coal technologies like low NOx burners, Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD), Electrostatic precipitators (ESP) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) have significantly reduced the carbon footprint. But at the same time, we have to ensure that ESIA studies (Environmental and Social Impact Assessment) are completed fairly for all the proposed plants. Global warming is a fact, but any unjustified propaganda against energy projects can cause irreparable damage to our future causes.
***** Ahmad Hamid *****