Pakistan encapsulates the renewable energy challenge faced by many developing and emerging countries. Despite abundant renewable resources – including solar, wind, hydropower and biomass – very little of this potential has been utilized. At the same time, about a third of the country’s people do not have access to electricity.
Pakistan has ambitious plans for solar and wind projects, and has developed a comprehensive policy framework for renewable energy, but projects on the ground remain few and far between.
What accounts for this gap? “One major reason is a lack of credible resource data,” says Arif Alauddin, the former CEO of Pakistan’s Alternative Energy Development Board, and now Managing Director of the National Energy Conservation Center.
While high-level solar and wind maps are widely available, these do not contain the granular data required by governments to understand the country’s full resource potential and needed by the private sector to identify specific sites for development.
To address this challenge, Pakistan and eight other countries are joining with the World Bank in a new Renewable Energy Mapping Program to carry out mapping of renewable energy resources that will for the first time produce rich, nationwide data for each country. Coordinated and financed by the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), the initiative will cover mapping of solar, wind, biomass, and small hydropower potential.
“The importance of this resource mapping [for Pakistan] cannot be overstated,” says Arif Alauddin. “The country’s energy shortage is unprecedented, tariffs are going up, and petroleum imports are eating up a large share of export earnings. There is a need to shift to domestic renewable energy resources.”