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Call for developing alternative energy systems locally

Pakistan has continuously been missing the alternative energy boat despite having driving forces like resources, finances and brains, which our people refuse to put to good use,” said retired Brig Prof Dr Nasim A. Khan during his lecture on alternate energy at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (Szabist) on Wednesday.

“The missing links in Pakistan preventing us from going in the alternative direction are: no data, lack of human resources, leadership and the will to do something. ‘Who’ will do something, is the question. ‘Not me!’ is the usual answer,” he said.

“We are the status quo people; we do not want to change things. We cannot even think original thoughts,” he added

Narrating the depressing story of alternative energy right from the start, the professor said that solar energy was made the responsibility of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission in 1960s, but on realising that it was not really atomic energy, a solar energy research centre was set up. And some 18 solar villages were set up around the country.

“But these villages were in such faraway places that no one got to know about them. There were also no proper roads in those areas so people could not even easily reach there by car. As a result finding no acknowledgment of his fine work the person responsible for installing the solar cells there died of a heart attack,” the professor said.

“Anyway, to make a long story short, the project did not take off due to lack of understanding. But now there are thankfully plenty of people getting into it. The private sector, too, has been involved since 2004. There are also many consultants and students working on alternative energy. Understanding the need of the hour, some NGOs are also promoting it now,” he added.

“But the thinking of many still has not changed, unfortunately. We do not have faith in our own work. We think what comes from abroad is the right thing and are constantly looking for approval as well as expertise from there,” he said.

“Wind energy and solar energy are the solution to loadshedding. But all wind and solar energy components are coming from abroad,” he added.

“There are so many places in the world that do not even get the sun that use solar energy, but we get the sun throughout the year in Sindh, even in winters. Our geysers run on gas whereas there is such a thing called solar geyser, which we would not switch to because we do not want change. The existing power distribution is not satisfactory to meet the energy needs of the masses, especially those living in remote locations. But power is not generated where it is needed. Instead it has to be brought there from somewhere else, which of course costs more,” he said.

“People come from abroad to discover gas in Sindh, while we were oblivious of our gas resources. There are new sources of energy available in Sindh such as solar, wind, bio-energy [waste to energy, biogas, bio diesel], geothermal, hydropower and marine energy. But then who will bring from abroad a ‘gora’ to turn your waste into energy? And you, of course, won’t do it,” he regretted.

“Sindh has 140, 914 square kilometres of land area and a more than 400km coastal belt. It is receiving 140,000,000 megawatts of solar radiation every moment. If only 10 per cent of the area is utilised with solar cells it will produce 1,400,000 megawatts,” he pointed out.

Finally, he presented a photograph of an electric qingqi rickshaw designed by him. “We missed the boat of making mobile phones and computers, but we can still make electric cars,” he said.

The lecture was attended by Szabist president Dr Saqib Rizvi, head of their Computer Science and Centre for Renewable Energy Research Dr Imran Amin along with other faculty members, staff and students.

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